Cleanliness is as important as education. Twenty-one-year-old Anita of Guradiya Varma village at Aashta block in MP’s Sehore understood this more than anyone, so when her parents expressed inability to construct a toilet in their house, she went on to use the state government’s education scholarship to construct a toilet at her house.
A B Sc student, Anita came to know about the ill-effects of open defecation in May, when an NGO launched the Swachch Bharat Mission in her village.
After returning home from the event, Anita demanded that a toilet be built in their house too, but her father, Ramlal, declined citing financial constraints, while her mother expressed dismay, saying nothing was wrong in defecating in the adjacent forests.
Ramlal, who owns two acres of land and two buffaloes, also doubles up as a daily wager along with his wife to cater to the needs of their family of six.
Undeterred by poverty, Anita began digging a pit in their house’s own backyard, following the advise of the voluntary organisation on ways to make a simple twin-pit toilet.
Soon, she realised she had been credited Rs 4,999 towards her fees by the SC welfare department. Elated, Anita decided to use Rs 3,000 out of it for constructing the toilet.
She, however, did not let her education suffer. Her father had already paid her fees at the beginning of the year and through sheer hard work she also cleared the B SC second year exam.
“There is an acute sense of embarrassment that one feels when going to defecate in the open. It is hard to put that in words. Moreover, the atmosphere in the village was not good and therefore not safe for women to go out either,” said Anita.
Buoyed by her success, nearly 70 toilets have been constructed in the village for about 600 families. However, around 60% of households still do not have toilets a year after PM Narendra Modi launched Swachch Bharat Mission on October 2, 2014.