Seema Patel separated from her husband about 19 months ago and is determined not to return until he builds a toilet for her at his home in Betul district of Madhya Pradesh.
Officials at a family counselling centre have now given 20-year-old Seema’s husband Mohan Patel a month to build the toilet.
Seema, a resident of Pipariya village, married Mohan of Chaukikpura village three years ago. When she came to live with her husband, she was upset on finding out that his home did not have a toilet. Her repeated demands for constructing a toilet did not move Mohan.
Fed up with her husband’s attitude, Seema left his home and returned to her parents 29 months after her wedding. The husband and wife have been living separately for about 19 months but even during this period, 23-year-old Mohan didn’t construct a toilet at his home.
On Thursday, the families of Seema and Mohan gathered at the family counselling centre in Shahpur in an attempt to reach a compromise. This happened after Mohan complained to officials at the centre against Seema and her parents.
After looking into the complaint and talking to Seema, family counselling centre member Rajani Gaikwad instructed Mohan to construct a toilet within a month if he wanted his wife to return.
Betul’s superintendent of police Rakesh Kumar Jain said: “Construction of a toilet by the husband will not only save a family from being broken, but it will also contribute to the online cleanliness campaign in the district.
“I appreciate the role of the family counselling centres – apart from reuniting families, they are also contributing to the cleanliness campaign.”
Betul has been in news in the past too for a woman’s revolt against her husband and in-laws after she found out following her marriage in 2011 that their home did not have a toilet.
Anita Narre, a resident of Chichauli village, had refused to stay with her husband until he built a toilet at his house.
Recognising her bold decision, the NGO Sulabh International offered an award of Rs 5 lakh to Narre.
In the last census report on open defecation in states, Madhya Pradesh was ranked second in the list of bad performers after Jharkhand. Defecation in the open has been stopped in only about 3,000 of the 23,000 gram panchayats of Madhya Pradesh.
The Swachh Bharat Mission aims at ending open defecation across the country by 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Madhya Pradesh was ranked second after Gujarat in building household toilets in urban areas in 2014-15, but activists believe the state has a long way to go to meet the target in rural areas.
With more than 8.3 million households in rural areas of Madhya Pradesh still without toilets, it will be an uphill task for authorities to ensure the state becomes free of open defecation by 2019.