When villagers decided to have toilets

Jalhori is among the very few villages in Salboni which has proper toilets in some houses. In most villages, people still defecate in the open.

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Puja Bhattacharjee | November 27, 2012



There is a chill in the air that announces the advent of winter, as I set off toward Jalhori village in Moupal mouza in the afternoon. The objective of my visit is to inspect the condition of toilets in the village. Jalhori is among the very few villages in Salboni which has proper toilets in some houses. In most villages, people still defecate openly.

The villagers are a little incredulous at first when I tell them that I want to have a look at their toilets. Upon realising that I was serious they allowed me to have a look at it but they could not suppress their giggles. I felt embarrassed and out of place but stood my ground nonetheless. Very few toilets were in hygienic condition. The proper toilets with walls and doors were built by the Ram Krishna Mission for Rs 5000 approximately. The rest were given the plates from the panchayats for Rs 175 and they had to do the rest of the work. To save money, the villagers had built an enclosure with bamboo and jute bags which houses the toilet.

The waste accumulates in a four feet deep opening and has to be cleaned from time to time. One family decided that they had enough trouble with cleaning it time and again and built a proper toilet as they could afford it. The man who owns the house informs me that the plates were more than a decade old.

Besides, things were uncertain for quite a long time and he didn’t want the added trouble. He pauses for a while and then goes on. Jalhori was a Maoist stronghold for a long time. He and his four daughter-in-laws were made to attend the meetings. His grandchildren used to stay at home as the schools were closed indefinitely. “I got tired of walking but couldn’t refuse,” he sighs. Owing to the predicament, two out of his four sons have shifted to Midnapore town.

One of the women tells me that they would be taken for meetings in far off places, sometimes as far as Nonasole, deep in the woods. “It would be really late and back home everybody would be worrying,” she says. Asked how she found her way back, she says that the men (Maoists) dropped her back home.
The harmat (CPM army) would be clashing with the Maoists to consolidate their position and in the resulting skirmish it was the villagers who got affected. Both parties wanted the villagers to side with them creating a huge dilemma for them. But the people are glad it is all behind them now. “Pariborton ashte pariborton hoyeche (the advent of change brought about change),” says the woman referring to the change of government.

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