The Madhya government has named this ambitious scheme ‘Maryada’ (dignity). But the state government’s modus operandi is gives little of it to women.
The scheme – meant to discourage defecation in the open and promote construction of toilets in rural homes — looks to public for help. But that “help” involves behaving in the most undignified manner if they ever catch a culprit.
From catcalls to publishing names to photographing the people caught — the government booklet suggests a number of measures meant to humiliate people. That it would hit women the hardest is not a thought that appears to have occurred to the authorities.
Ironically, the booklet carries messages from chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and then rural development minister Gopal Bhargava on how ‘Maryada’ scheme would ensure a dignified life for women in villages.
NGOs working in the field of sanitation say the guideline itself is an insult to rural women, who struggle under the lack of basic amenities.
“Imagine how women would feel if they are whistled at or photographed in such a situation. It is simply foolish,” said Binu Arickal, programme officer, Water Aid. Also, it is a securiy risk, since a number of rapes in rural areas take place when women go outdoors to relieve themselves.
Even the photo published in the guidelines was a slap on the face of women. The sketch depicts a girl being watched by men while relieving herself. Nearby, a woman mutters, “Oh God, my daughter is being watched”.
Commissioner, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) Council, Ravindra Pastor, said he was not aware of the matter.