Building toilets in rural India were one of the major promises Prime Minister Narendra Modi made during his speech from the Red Fort ramparts in his first Independence Day address. The government has since moved with alacrity, claiming to have constructed around 80 lakh toilets in the countryside under Modi’s ambitious Swachh Bharat Mission. But women are still fighting to get a toilet built in their house and one woman from a village in Bihar had to take the help of a police to get her father-in-law to agree to build one.
In what is surely a rarity, a woman in Bihar has lodged a complaint against her father-in-law for not constructing a toilet in their house and sought help police help in this matter, police said on Friday.
After her father-in-law ignored repeated requests to construct a toilet in their house, Sanju Devi (name changed) — a resident of Jian Khurd village within Karja Police Station in Muzaffarpur district — surprised officials of a women police station as she reached there with a written complaint.
“A woman has lodged a written complaint against her father-in-law that he is not constructing a toilet in their house,” said Jyoti Kumari, Officer-in-Charge of the Women’s Police Station in Muzaffarpur, about 70 km from here.
Sanju Devi told Joyti Kumari that her husband had been working outside Bihar to earn a livelihood and sent money twice to his father to construct a toilet, but he spent that money on other things and did not get the toilet constructed.
“In her complaint, Sanju has alleged that her father-in-law is not in a mood to construct toilet in their house and hardly pays attention to her demand.”
Taking the complaint seriously, Joyti Kumari called her father-in-law to police station to know his side of the story.
Sanju’s father-in-law, however, downplayed the issue and said it was their personal matter and he would solve it.
“But I told him that it is a rare case that a woman has lodged a written complaint that her father-in-law is not constructing a toilet despite repeated requests,” she said.
Jyoti Kumari has directed the man to construct a toilet within a month and submit a report with the picture of constructed toilet at the women police station. “Sanju’s father-in-law has given an undertaking that he will construct a toilet,” she said.
In fact, Sanju was not ready to withdraw her complaint and return to his father-in-law’s house unless a toilet was constructed. “But after we persuaded her, she agreed to return to her in-laws’ house.”
Sanju said her husband had been promising and assuring of a toilet for the last five years but it was yet to be built.
Last week, Union Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation S.S. Ahluwalia expressed concern that a large number of people in Bihar were still defecating in the open and that not a single district had so far been declared ODF (open defecation free) in the state.
Compared to other states, Bihar is at the bottom as far as open defecation is concerned. “The state’s performance is not good,” Ahluwalia said.
Amid the poor state of affairs, the state government has announced to achieve an ODF Bihar by October 2, 2019, under the Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBM-G).