Four panchayat candidates in Gujarat have been disqualified because their homes don’t have a toilet, which a state law makes compulsory for anyone contesting a local body election. On Thursday, World Toilet Day, Gopal Kateshiya, Satish Jha, Kamaal Saiyed & Aditi Raja report
Not yet usable:
Ragha Rangapara (BJP, Songadh, Than taluka): “We are building a new house with a toilet but not yet using it,” admitted Rangapara, a farmer of Songadh village in Than taluka. His affidavit had declared he did have a toilet. The father of five daughters and two sons, he owns 10 bighas and holds a lease for coal mining. His old home does not have a toilet either, for “there are lots of open space near our farm.” “We received a complaint and an inquiry established there was no toilet,” said Jitesh Koya, resident additional collector of Surendranagar. “His toilet is under construction. We will decide whether to appeal,” said Jetha Zala, incumbent president of BJP-ruled Than taluka panchayat.
Has a toilet, but not here:
Jitu Singarasiya (BSP, Fatana-SC, Porbandar): “I am living in rented accommodation that has a toilet. But the talati insisted that he would only give a certificate only for our family home at Visavada village, which has no toilet,” said Singarasiya, 30, who drives a truck. “I filed a complaint with the collector but he said it was too late.” Singarasiya had earlier submitted a certificate fom the talati that he has no toilet. “We accepted his papers then as per rules and rejected them after scrutiny,” said Rupesh Garod, the returning officer for the Pornabdar taluka panchayat election.
Days only, not nights:
Ashok Talaviya (Cong, Ajrai, Gandevi): The farmer was disqualified after election officials found he spends his days with his parents and family at one house, which has an attached toilet, and his nights at another house, which has none. “There isn’t room for all of us in our parents’ home, so two years ago I built a small room just five houses away and I spend my nights there,” said Talaviya, 45. He gave an affidavit promising to build a toilet soon but said election officials did not yield. His BJP rival, Rakesh Patel, vice sarpanch of Ajrai village, has been declared the winner of this election, unopposed.
He uses it, but no taps:
(Jayantilal Nayak, Congress, Halol, Panchamahal): “His nomination was rejected on the basis that his toilet doesn’t have water supply. In the village there is no water supply and people use buckets in the toilets,” Nayak’s advocate P S Champaneri told the high court, appealing against the rejection. “He has made arrangements and the toilet became functional.” Nayak, 40, has attached a picture of the toilet in his petition to the court, which is yet to give a ruling. “The toilet is under repair. I am hopeful the court will give a just order,” he said.
Section 30, Gujarat Panchayat Act 1993, lists various grounds for prohibiting a person from being a member of the panchayat. Clause KK, inserted in 2014, says that a person is not qualified to be member if he has no toilet at his place of residence; this toilet should be functional.
In May this year, the high court rejected the petitions of four women whose nominations for a gram panchayat poll in Dahod had been rejected on similar grounds.