Six newly-wed women, both from the Hindu and Muslim communities, have raised a banner of revolt against their in-laws in Kushinagar district of Uttar Pradesh over lack of toilets in their respective houses.
The brides, all married to residents of Khesiya village of Kushinagar, have returned to their parents’ homes in the past two months.
The women have reportedly said they will not return to their in-laws’ places until they construct toilets.
A local activist, Aasma Praveen, confirmed that six brides have left their in-laws’ place over lack of toilets and blamed the local administration for not taking enough steps towards sanitation.
“A common complaint they (the six women) had was that being newly-weds, it was almost impossible for them to go out during daytime as the eyes were constantly on them. I took up the issue with various authorities, including the Block Development Officer, but they snubbed me and asked me to mind my own business,” Aasma said. “Eventually, over the last two months, six brides have left,” she said.
Mohammad Anwar, pradhan of Khesiya gram sabha too confirmed about the women leaving the village over lack of toilets. However, he cited local politics behind the act. “Panchayat elections are approaching and my opponents want to smear my image. Under Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, our gram sabha was allotted 20 toilets in 2012-13, all of which were constructed. Then in 2013-14, we were allotted another 10, but a few beneficiaries didn’t deposit the initial beneficiary deposit of Rs 900 at the behest of my detractors,” he claimed.
Meanwhile, taking cognizance of the news, Sulabh International founder Dr Bindeshwar Pathak Saturday announced that his NGO will construct toilets at the (in-laws’) houses of all the six women.
“The women —- Neelam, Kalawati, Shakina, Niranjan, Gudiya and Sita —- protested against their husbands and in-laws when they found that there were no toilets in their houses. After spending a few days, they returned to their respective fathers’s homes,” said Sulabh spokesperson Madan Jha.
Pathak, meanwhile, termed the move by the six women as “a bold and extraordinary step”. “Such kind of rising incidents clearly show the changing mindset of girls. Now, everybody realises the importance of toilets,” Pathak said, adding that his NGO will construct the toilets at the women’s homes “free of cost and without any delay.” Additionally, the brides will also be honoured by Sulabh “for their bold stand.”
Interestingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address too urged the parliamentarians and the corporates to help construct toilets as “the poor womenfolk of the village wait for night, until darkness descends, they can’t go out to defecate”. “What bodily torture they must be feeling, how many diseases that act might engender,” he said at the Red Fort.
The Sulabh international had earlier honoured, Priyanka Bharti, a woman from Maharajganj district of UP, who too had returned to her parents’ place after she found no toilet at her in-laws’ house. “Now she works as a Sulabh motivator and also appeared with a Bollywood actress in a sanitation advertisement,” Jha said.
Pathak meanwhile also handed over a cheque of Rs 5 lakh to a tribal woman Anita Narre of Betul in Madhya Pradesh for taking a similar decision.
“A UN study in 2010 found more people in India have access to a mobile phones than to a toilet,” said Pathak, while expressing happiness over the emphasis laid by the PM on sanitation in his speech. “For the first time in the country’s history, the issue of toilet attained such an importance in the speech of any Prime Minister. I am confident that now every household will have toilet in a not too distant future,” Pathak said.