"We have to answer the nature's call in open fields early morning. It's very embarrassing. I asked my father to get a toilet constructed at home, but he said we couldn't afford it. We have been waiting for the government grant to construct a toilet for over three years now and the wait seems endless," says Navita Sharma, a class 12 student, while narrating the state of development in her village.
"My husband, a labourer, barely manages to earn the daily bread for the family. Over the past three years, the authorities have not even told us the status of our application for the toilet grant. The government seems to be working for the rich and not the poor like us," adds Navita's mother Rama Rani.
This is not the story of a lone family, which has been suffering from want of toilets in this remote village, which is a part of the Dasuya assembly segment going to polls on July 11.
Nearly half of the 300 households here are yet to be provided with this basic facility even 65 years after Independence, sarpanch Ajeet Singh said, adding that dirty politics engineered by local BJP leaders was the reason for non-release of grant.
When recently, union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh stressed the importance of provision of sanitation facilities on Monday, little did he know that the Punjab government was yet to wake up to its importance. Tall claims of the SAD-BJP government of carrying out sweeping development works in the villages notwithstanding, Rampur Haler is a glorified example of red-tapism and political interference.
Kala Devi (85), a widow living alone in her one-room 'kutcha' house, too had lost all hope of getting government help to raise a pucca house and a toilet. "I have no response from the government on my request for grant," she lamented. Pinning her hope on the Hindustan Times team, she quipped: "I am sure you will do something for me."
Tripta Devi, who lost her husband two years back, is the only bread earner of her family comprising of two daughters, a son and her mother-in-law. She does petty jobs in the village to earn a livelihood. "The grants for constructing a pucca house and a toilet is yet to reach us, despite a resolution having been passed by the panchayat three years back. Besides, I am yet to get widow pension under the social security scheme to raise the kids," she said, tearing rolling down. "I used to get work under National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), but it was discontinued in the village some months back. Where shall we go," she questioned.
Balbir Chand, a labourer and head of a four-member family, too falls in the same category.
When contacted, block development and panchayat officer Paramjit Singh said he has been in Dasuya since May only and was not aware of the case of Rampur Haler village. "I am yet to receive any complaint about delay in release of such grants. I will check the records after elections, as the poll code is in force now," he added.
Facing harassment, Dalit sarpanch offers to resign
"If I have to face false cases for being a Dalit and heading a panchayat against the wishes of an influential BJP panch, I am ready to quit. I am completely tired of facing departmental inquiries," said Ajit Singh, the harried village sarpanch.
Singh alleged that BJP panch KK Sharma had been creating hurdles in development of the village ever since he took over as sarpanch four years back. He alleged that the government had not sanctioned a single penny for the construction of toilets or a house for beneficiaries, as he was heading the panchayat for four years now.
"Sharma had announced that he would not let me function smoothly as I am a Dalit. Though I carried out several development works, but I ended up being slapped with departmental inquiries at Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar and Chandigarh," he added. Singh alleged that he was also implicated in a false attempt to rape case. "A case was recently slapped against me for felling 71 trees from forest land," he said, adding that though he would come clean, he was totally demoralised.