Chhattisgarh’s Chandabai Patel wants her stolen toilet back
Chandabai Patel’s toilet exists only on paper. Chandabai and her family members defecate in the open in their Chhattisgarh village that was declared open defecation free in 2016. She alleges that her toilet has been stolen.india Updated: May 21, 2017 16:10 IST
Chandabai Patel defecates in the open in her Chhattisgarh village declared open defecation free (ODF) in 2016. She shouldn’t because the government has given her a toilet at home. What is her problem? Well, her toilet exists only on paper.
She insists her toilet has been “stolen”, and is determined to get it back. On May 5, Chandabai and her mother-in-law, Belabai, 75, lodged a complaint with the police alleging the toilet theft.
“I was told Rs 12,000 was released in my name under an employment guarantee programme in 2015-16 for a toilet at my home and later Rs 4,700 was given for the same work. I do not have a toilet, but the panchayat insists I do,” Chandabai told HT.
Chandabai, who is in her 50s, lost her husband 10 years ago and does not own any land. She has little going for her, but there is fight left in her. And, she is giving a taste of it to Janpad panchayat at Amarpur village in Pendra block, located about 250 km from state capital Raipur.
“This is loot. People have swindled Rs 16,700 in my name,” she said, sitting outside her house with Belabai and daughter Poonam, 17. Her son is a daily wage worker and not at home.
“All of us defecate in the open,” she said. “I am scared when Poonam goes out to answer nature’s call and am restless till she returns.”
Chandabai says some of her panchayat’s members are pressuring her to withdraw the complaint, but she won’t.
Chandabai and her family’s open defecation routine is an oddity that raises a stink around the Chhattisgarh government’s ODF status for Amarpur.
Local Right to Information (RTI) activist Suresh Patel said the ODF status for Amarpur, which has a population of nearly 1,500, was misleading. “ODF status means no one should be defecating in the open, but many still are,” he said. “A total of 210 toilets are on record in Amarpur. The RTI application I filed got the response that 114 had been built, but even among these, some are incomplete.”
Inspector Islakh Khalko of Pendra police station, who is investigating the toilet theft complaint, said, “It seems to be a case of embezzlement.” Police are recording the statement of several people, including the sarpanch and deputy sarpanch, he added. “No case has been registered so far, but we will find the culprits soon and book them.”
Janpad panchayat chief executive officer KL Dhruve said, “I have sought details of the alleged toilet theft. We will help the aggrieved family and the culprits will be punished if found guilty.”
Local journalist Sharad Agarwal said Chandabai was enduring Amarpur’s “toilet scam” and she was not only one tricked. “Unlike others, Chandabai is fighting against the system for her rights. Her courage needs to be applauded.”
Chandabai doesn’t know her toilet theft bears resemblance to Shyam Benegal’s 2009 Hindi film Well Done Abba, a satire centred around theft of a well.
Films and compliments for courage are not what she is looking for at the moment. She is looking for her stolen toilet.
First Published: May 18, 2017 20:29 IST