The Rajasthan Government has declared war on the poor in the name of the Swachha Bharat Abhiyan. The Government of Rajasthan has become obsessed, not with making Rajasthan free of open defecation but with declaring Rajasthan to be Open Defecation Free (ODF). In this obsession, they are lying about how many toilets have been built, they are eating away the subsidy meant to encourage the poor to build toilets, but worst of all, they have unleashed a reign of terror upon the most destitute citizens of the State.
A group of Congress workers visited two panchayats, Ghodach in the Rajsamand district and Rama in the Udaipur district. We visited 384 families in all, 186 families in Ghodach and 198 families in Rama. We gathered information about their lives and the effect of the governments ODF campaign upon their family.
This is what we found.
Ghodach, district Rajsamand is a panchayat of 1585 families spread over 6 villages. As per the Government survey, 565 families were identified as not having toilets at home. These families have nearly no land, their land holdings are usually 1 – 2 bhigas. They have very little savings and nearly no assets of any kind. Their only source of income is daily labour. Their houses are either kachha or very small. Drinking water is a severe problem and available at only a few taps in the village. Their children are entirely dependent upon PDS for their food. They were told by their PDS shop owner that to get next months wheat (gehu) they would have to provide a certificate from their panchayat secretary saying that they have built a toilet in their homes.
In desperation, the villagers started digging holes for a septic tank in their homes. The ground is hard rock. It took many days, costing them the loss of precious daily wages. Sometimes the rock was too hard and they had to hire a JCB to dig the hole. Building the toilet will cost at least 20 – 30 thousand rupees more. No one has any idea where the money will come from. If they borrow this money they will have to pay an interest of 5% per month for it. Even if they build a toilet, there is not enough water to clean them. The villagers are living in terror that their ration and the food for their children will be stopped at any time.
Rama, district Udaipur is a panchayat of 1335 families spread over 3 villages. Rama has already been declared ODF. This means that everyone must have access to toilets. Rama Panchayat even spent Rs 50,000 on a Gaurav Yatra to celebrate its ODF status.
Of the families we visited we found 105 families either had no toilets or had toilets that did not function. Most of those who had toilets were economically well off and already had toilets before the ODF movement.
Only 22 families have received the Rs 12,000 ‘protsahan rashi’ even though as per the Government records, the fund has been released to 200 families.
The poorest families in Rama earn Rs 200 per day in daily wages. These families reported having their ration stopped till they got a stamp of ‘garvilo parivar (proud family)’ from the Secretary. They live in terror even now that the Government will punish them for going in the open.
This was not the obsession of one local official, the State of Rajasthan issued an official notice to the villages to use all means necessary and stop PDS to force people to build toilets.
In Summary, Every Indian’s wish is that our Country becomes a cleaner, more beautiful and healthier home for us all. But all the Rajasthan Government is achieving is;
The poor are being made to suffer
The money meant for them is being eaten by the Government
Most toilets are unbuilt or unusable.