Even though Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar has announced that his government will make the state open defecation free by 2017, on grounds, his own villages struggle to better their image when it comes to access to a toilet. Hundreds of houses in his native villages of Baniyani and Nindana in Rohtak district still don’t house a toilet.
Khattar was born in Nindana village in 1954 but soon moved to Baniyani village where he spent most of his initial years. Today, over 150 houses in Baniyani are devoid of toilets. Similarly, Nindana constitutes of three panchayats and the total number of houses without toilets number about 400. It is also alleged that in August, one of the three panchayats claimed a prize of Rs 1 lakh for being open defecation free by furnishing false data. The tall claims were reportedly punctured when panchayat members complained to the administration that over 100 houses in the panchayat don’t have toilets.
During the state’s golden jubilee celebrations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that seven districts in the state are open defecation free. However, in the CM’s own backyard, the ambitious project is reportedly facing hiccups amid allegations of bribes and fabrication of data by engineering false surveys at the behest of local authorities.
Laxmi Devi, 48, a resident of Baniyani, has difficulties in moving due to severe swelling in her feet. Struggling to stand, she has to negotiate a long distance to answer nature's call. When asked why she doesn’t construct a toilet at her house, the mother of a 16-year-old girl said that her family does not have sufficient money for it. “Jaanti hun ladki jawan hai...chinta bhi hoti hai jab vo bahar jaati hai ...par kya karu humare paas paise nahi hain sauchalay banane ke liye?” she says. (I know my daughter is in her adolescence and I worry for her safety when she goes out in the open. But what can we do if we don’t have money to build a toilet?)
Many residents have reportedly locked horns with the administration and are demanding ₹12,000 as an incentive to build toilets. The government scheme provides the incentive once the toilet is constructed, however villagers want it to be provided prior to the construction.
“We will build toilets if they give the money in advance. Otherwise, we can’t spare money for it,” said Barfi Devi, a resident of Baniyani. Villagers inform that they are discouraged to build toilets without advance payments because many among those who built them in the past did not get the promised funds from the government. Some of them alleged that the officials had even asked for bribe.
On the other hand, Baniyani sarpanch Bansi Vij said that those who did not receive the funds failed to complete the formalities required under the scheme. Similarly, Nindana Mohammadpur sarpanch Jaswant Singh, who was awarded for making his panchayat open defecation free, said the allegations of fabrication of data levelled on him and others are “malafide and due to village rivalry”.
Responding to queries, Haryana panchayati raj minister OP Dhankar said that the government’s aim was to motivate villagers to take up cleanliness and not to blindly distribute money. “For them (complaining villagers), government work means money. We want to make them self-sufficient and appreciate the idea more than the money the scheme provides,” he said.