The claim of an ODF-free Haryana flies in the face of cases of class division, dysfunctional toilets and administrative inaction
Class division seems to be derailing Swachh Bharat Mission’s (SBM) efforts in Haryana, which was declared open-defecation free (ODF) way back in June 2017 and has seen a massive campaign to sensitise people.
In Amroli gram panchayat of Palwal district, the Valmiki community lives in shanties outside the village. “We do not have land to build a toilet. So the panchayat asked us to use the community toilet at the village chaupal. But people from higher castes do not like us using it. Fights erupt when we go there,” said Dinesh Kumar, 30.
“These community toilets are usually located about a kilometre from our houses. Who would go so far in the morning?” said 26-year-old Karan, adding that women particularly do not like using toilets in other mohallas and that most people from his community defecate in the open.
Then there are those who have been left out of this toilet construction exercise and have no option but to defecate in the open.
One of the first few villages on the road to Faridabad district is Dhauj and just before entering its congested bylanes, the main road gives way to a couple of houses to its right.
Away from the everyday commotion of interiors of the village, five women discuss the futility of the election exercise and say they are in no mood to listen to candidates’ appeals of what they can do for them. They all live within metres of each other but share a common space for their morning ablutions: the fields adjoining their houses.
One of them, 28-year-old Shabnam, said while she was used to a toilet at her parental home in Uttar Pradesh, she has never seen a toilet since she got married here around seven years ago.
The women claim they all had filled forms under SBM to get toilets constructed but didn't hear from the sarpanch after that.
One of households got a toilet constructed some years ago on its own but it has stopped functioning now due to a faulty design. The nearest community toilet is deep inside the village, at least 4-5 km away.
“The sarpanch is a woman. She should have made this a priority for us,” said Reshma, a resident of Dhauj.
According to data on government’s website, the village has 2,408 houses, out of which 600 did not have toilets at the start of the scheme.
Village after village, the story is replayed. While there are many newly built toilets, the exclusion rate is equally high. From 26-year-old Geeta — who said the sarpanch took a photo of the house in Misa village during a survey for toilet construction but did not hear from him after that — to 65-year-old Hardeyi who desperately needs a toilet at her home as her husband is a drunkard and keeps falling in the fields when he goes to defecate, the claim of ODF-free Haryana flies in the face of these accounts.
There are also those who got toilets made on their own after they were stopped from defecating in the open. These toilets mostly have single pit instead of the two-pit design recommended by the SBM guidelines for better solid waste management.
A case in point is of 46-year-old Balram Sanopar of Gulawad village in Palwal. Having been chased with sticks while defecating in the open last year by police, who also threatened to file a first information report, he got a kuccha toilet constructed in March 2018.
“They said they would lock me up if I continued to go to the fields. I had to get this toilet constructed. Though I did not get any money or help,” said Sanopar, who works as a labourer.
With meagre resources, he got a single pit toilet constructed that cost him Rs 7,000. The pit has been emptied twice till date by a vacuum truck. When asked where does the truck dispose the sewage, he said “in the nearby canal”.
The coercive measures may have worked in some other cases. In Nidana village’s Dhanuk mohalla, every other house got a toilet made after they were either stopped from going to the fields or there was no more space left to defecate in the open.
“All empty spaces were getting occupied. Plus the vigilantes started patrolling and sometimes used to throw balls made of sand or dirt. There was no option but to construct the toilets,” said 27-year-old Pooja.
Similarly, 52-year-old Bimla Surjwan got her twin pit toilet made three months ago. She said the land over which her house is made was under panchayat and they threatened to take it over if she didn’t get a toilet constructed. But she could not avail of any subsidy and is now under several loans she took to get a toilet built.
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