Pradeep’s Story

Created on 2019-09-16 07:29

Published on 2019-09-16 07:32

At 5 am a whistle rings out sharp and clear in a small village in Madhya Pradesh. That’s the signal for the ‘Dabba Dhol gang’ to get up to some serious mischief against their deadly, sworn enemy- the villagers bad habit of open defecation (that means using the wide, open spaces of the village as a toilet. Yuck!)

From the book – #ChangeStartsYoung (Amazon)

The Dabba Dhol gang is 15-year-old Pradeep Mewada’s idea. Pradeep lives in a small village in Madhya Pradesh. He learnt that because of the poo all over the village, they all frequently suffered from bouts of diarrhoea, infections and fever.

He told his family and they became the first family in the village with a toilet in their house. But still, many elders didn’t like using it and went out into the fields in the morning. 

He then understood that this issue doesn’t just need more toilets, it needs people to change their behaviour. 

That’s when he got the idea of the ‘Dabba Dhol’ gang. Every morning he and his friends would follow the villagers and knock down the vessels of water (the ‘dabbas’) they carried to clean themselves.

“People would get extremely angry. They would come to our house, threaten and abuse us. But we did not stop,” says Pradeep courageously. 

Once a neighbour even beat up Pradeep and his team. Still he continued. He became the most hated kid in the village but his mother stood by him through all this.

After some months the Sarpanch of the village supported his idea. Soon the villagers started understanding and built more toilets. 

Then there was another problem- lack of water. The kids got a borewell dug in the village. Now all the 300 households in the village proudly use their own toilet.

 Slowly Pradeep’s mission has spread to nearby villages. Now his team covers about 10 to 12 villages. It all started with a whistle.

From the book – #ChangeStartsYoung (Amazon)

Read review of #ChangeStartsYoung on The Hindu


About the Author

Ashwin Naik is passionate about healthcare access and an advocate for strong primary health as the backbone of healthcare systems worldwide. He consults with organisations around the world, as the founding partner of We Scale Impact. He is also a Resident Fellow at Ashoka, a pioneering network of social entrepreneurs worldwide. In addition he co-founded Vaatsalya (India’s first rural hospitals network) and Seraniti (India’s first integrated mental health organization). He also leads DisruptHealth, a health focused ecosystem enabler based in Pune and is actively involved in the sector as an adviser and angel investor.

He is the author of two books – The Healthcare Gamechangers, which profiles innovations around the world which have the potential to change the way healthcare is delivered, and #ChangeStartsYoung, a book about young changemakers who are starting as early as 11 years young.