On Sunday, Dilip Singh Malviya, a 71-year-old mason from Bhojpura village in Madhya Pradesh, found a mention in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann ki Baat radio address for offering his services for free to villagers who built a toilet at home. But Malviya might find it hard to live up to the image — mainly because he never said he would not charge any money.
All that the father of eight had promised to some villagers was that he was willing to wait for wages till the money they get on building a toilet at home is deposited in their bank account. Each household gets an incentive of Rs 12,000 to build a toilet under the Clean India Mission once the beneficiary submits proof — mostly a photo of himself posing next to the toilet — to the district panchayat. It takes two to three days to build a toilet.
It took a combination of good intentions, misreporting and half-truths for Malviya’s efforts to reach the PMO, and earn an honour that caught him and the village off guard.
“Desh ke raja hain, mujhe bohot achcha lag raha hai (He (Modi) is the country’s king, I feel really good),” he said, referring to the accolades he got from the Prime Minister.
The last time the village got some attention was a couple of years ago, when a deer was mauled by a dog and forest department officials rushed to take note.
“I never said don’t give me wages, I only said pay me when you get the money. I have a family to support. The crop on my one-acre plot failed. Some people have given money, others will,” he told The Indian Express.
His son and five of his daughters are married, and Malviya lives with his wife and two daughters. His house neither has a fan nor a television. Even if he did have a TV, it would have mattered little — when local news channels ran his story, the village had no electricity.
Malviya has built 27 of 53 toilets in the village, and claims to have guided masons who constructed the rest. Villagers usually procure building material on their own, and some were also kind enough to provide raw material to Malviya, with which he built a toilet at his own home.
Bhojpura is one of four villages that fall under Mohanpur Lendi gram panchayat. A total of 253 toilets have been built in the four villages in recent months. Sarpanch Suresh Varma, a veterinary doctor, said misreporting was to blame for what had transpired.
The news report mentioned by the PM claimed that all villagers, including the sarpanch, defecate in the open. “I have two toilets at home. I gave the reporter a piece of my mind and he apologised,” said Varma.
District Panchayat CEO R R Bhonsle said though there were “discrepancies” in the reportage, the reporter’s “intention was good”.
One report wrongly claimed Malviya was forced by his wife to build a toilet at home and inspire other villagers. It’s not difficult to trace the origin of this story: a newly married woman in Betul district in the state had walked out of her husband’s home nearly four years ago due to a similar reason.
Another half-truth was that Malviya built all 100 toilets in the village alone. The village has 53 houses, out of which at least four already had toilets before June — the time when talk of building toilets began. The toilets were built between August and mid-November. One report said Malviya is still building toilets.