Gandhigiri takes new avatar in Bihar
Gifting human excreta to bribe-takers
ALOMITA new edition of Gandhigiri is in offing. The cradle may the land that afforded the first success to Gandhiji in the fight against English Rulers and gave him lessons in Satyagrah.
The new version is to gift excreta to mandarins seeking a cut in the government doles for constructing toilets in the houses of the poor. The grotesque gift decision has been taken at a meeting with villagers at Champaran’s Bhitiharwa, where from Gandhiji had launched the Satyagrah against the indigo traders. The issue of open air defecation came up when a band of people on peace march saw human excreta lined along a newly built road. The villagers said that even though the government had announced a grant of Rs 10,000 for toilet construction, there were few takers as lower-level officials demand bribes.
According to a newspaper report, some young people asked, if these “officials force us to defecate in the open, why should we not use their space as toilets?” Thus, the Gandhigiri came in a new ‘avatar’ (incarnation). The plan is simple. Entire village people in the BPL category will apply for toilet subsidies. If the applications are not processed, they will inform the district and state administration in writing. If any official asks for a bribe, the village community will set a date for an ‘eating out’ and the concerned person will experience the sight and smell of human excrement in front of his/her office and homes. The determined villagers said: “We will send them a notice in writing so that they can ask the policemen to arrest us for committing ‘public nuisance’, but even if we are in jail, our kids and neighbours will continue to deposit ‘morning gifts’ at their doorsteps.
The innovative idea may appear bizarre but new edition of Gandhigiri will spread, like a wild fire in the villages of Bihar and Jharkhand soon. Millions of BPL families in the twin states are still living without toilets. As per government data over 7.57 million households in Bihar, particularly in rural areas, don’t have toilets. And Jharkhand tops the list of toilet-less states in the country. Over 77 per cent population (both urban and rural) does not have this basic necessity of human beings. The latest census report makes a shocking revelation: Only 13.61 lakh families, out of a total of 61. 81 lakh families (23 per cent) have toilets. Of them 85.87 thousand families have pit toilets and 20.52 thousand toilets do not have slabs on the pit.
Over 90 per cent villagers in Jharkhand have to defecate in the open. Worst is the plight of women. The situation is no better in the villages lucky to have the gift of lavatories from the benevolent government, celebrating ‘daughters’ year’. The mandarins have built latrines but forgotten to provide enclosures and roofs. As a result, two women have to stand stretching a bed-sheet to allow privacy for attending to nature’s call. All villages having government bonanza in this tribal state face identical dilemma: To defecate in the open or arrange two women to use latrines, built by the pure drinking water wing of the government.
Meanwhile, the Bihar government has plans to provide toilet facilities to more than 11 million families. The PHED will provide toilets to 8,25,248 BPL families and 4,52,350 APL families during 2012-13. The Bihar government had launched a special scheme, named after veteran socialist leader Rammanohar Lohia, in 2007 to speed up toilet construction but its implementation has been lagging. The Union government has launched the Total Sanitation Campaign to ensure sanitation facilities in rural areas to eradicate open defecation. But Bihar is among the states lagging behind. WaterAid, in partnership with PHED, has tied up with Unicef, the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme and Britain’s Department for International Development for a project to make Bihar free from open defecation by 2012.