“When we hear of villages getting open defecation free, we feel our village exists in 18th or 19th century,” says a woman from a village in Varanasi
GN Bureau | November 8, 2016
“Toilets are being built. I ask, where?” wonders Asha Devi, a 38-year-old native of Khushiyari village near Varanasi. The village in prime minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency doesn’t have a single toilet. Women in the village have been demanding toilets for past two years, without success.
“We have written several letters, tweeted our complaints and run from pillar to post to get at least one toilet in the village. Our letters are never replied. Why?” she laments. This in sharp contrast to the speedy response to a request by a couple from neighbouring Mirzapur who wanted their daughter to be named by the prime minister. The response in that case was prompt.
In June this year, Asha narrated to Governance Now the agony of the women of her village. “Mornings are indeed the worst time of the day for me as I have to walk 5 km every day to answer nature’s call. I have to rush so as to finish off and return before the sun is up. If the sun rises, I have no option but to hold on till evening – no matter what. When I was a child, I remember, I had hopes that villages of our country would be better off by the time I grow up. I am in my late 30s now and there is still no toilet in my home in Khushiyari village [on the outskirts of Varanasi, population: about 3,000]. Such is the agony every woman here has to suffer, day in and day out,” she wrote. Read full article here
Asha says that no one in her village has received the amount (Rs 12,000 allocated for constructing one individual household latrine). “We understand that there might be certain issues with funds and budget. But then the government has also failed to provide public toilets complexes as well. Almost everyone goes out in fields. No NGO, no PSU have come to donate us a toilet because we are a nondescript village on the map.”
Asha leads a nascent movement called Green Gang, named after the colour of their sari. The women groomed by university and college students put a check on gambling and domestic violence. For two years they shifted their focus on getting a few toilets for their people. “We are losing hope now. Some women who were volunteering eagerly earlier have lost enthusiasm,” she says.
“When we hear of villages getting open defecation free, we feel our village exists in 18th or 19th century,” she adds.
Earlier this year, the chief development officer of Varanasi district had acknowledged the need for 50 toilets including individual toilets and toilet complexes. Funds for constructing these were never released. Villagers have also signed several applications and sent it to central and state government, but to no avail.
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This piece is based on a previous article by the authors published in Geoforum [Elsevier] in May 2019: available online: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/ S0016718519300764?via%3Dihub
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