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Bengal beggar builds toilet with proceeds from alms

Rahima Bewa has spent her life without a toilet but at 75, she has decided to build one in her home in Murshidabad . It will cost her Rs 15,000.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2018 09:59 IST
Sreyasi Pal
Sreyasi Pal
Rahima Bewa (left) and daughter, Kamala Bewa, sit in front of bricks bought to build a toilet at their home in Nowdapara in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district.(HT Photo)

Rahima Bewa is 75 and has spent all her years without a toilet. But now she wants to change it.

“Some people told me defecating in the open is harmful for our health. So, I decided to build a toilet in my house. I’m spending some of my savings for it,” said Bewa, who lives in Nowdapara in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district.

The toilet will cost her around Rs 15,000 but that has not deterred Bewa, who begs for a living.

Bricks and pipes have been bought and masons have begun work. Once the construction is over, the toilet would be only brick and mortar structure in Bewa’s mud house that she shares with her 50-year-old daughter, Kamala Bewa.

Kamala is physically challenged and it is her mother who takes care of her.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee is opposed to the Modi government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, or Clean India Mission, aimed at freeing the country of open defecation by October 2019.

Bengal has its own Nirmal Bangla (Clean Bengal) plan under which the administration gives Rs 10,000 and the beneficiary has to chip in Rs 900 for a toilet.

If a householder can’t come up with the share, the person has to work for five days in MNGREGA.

But, Bewa is not eligible for Nirmal Bangla.

Her sons, who threw Bewa out of their home, had already taken the subsidy. So, she was not eligible for a direct subsidy but the administration would help her, said Rakhi Pal, the block development officer of Berhampore in which the village falls.

“We will try to deliver to her whatever government aid is possible within the next two days,” Pal said on Monday.

Bewa has lived in Nowdapara for more than 30 years. Her husband, Din Mohammad, was a farmer and died 20 years ago, forcing Bewa into begging.

Bengal has declared eight of its 23 districts open-defecation free but Murshidabad is not one of them.

“Recently government officials visited our village and tried to impress upon us the need to build toilets in the house,” Ibrahim Biswas, a villager, said.

Bewa seems to have got the message.

First Published: Feb 13, 2018 09:59 IST