PATNA: The district magistrate of Aurangabad district found himself in the middle of a controversy when a video clip widely circulated on Sunday showed him asking an audience of villagers to sell their wives if they have no money to build toilets at home.
Kanwal Tanuj, a 2010-batch IAS officer, was apparently incensed when during a motivational speech he was delivering before hundreds of villagers, someone in the audience shouted that he did not have the money to build a toilet.
“If that is the case, then go and sell your wife. If this is the mentality you have, then go and sell your wife,” Tanuj was heard retorting angrily. Sources said the incident took place at an event by the district administration on Friday to promote Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in a village populated mostly by Mahadalit villagers.
Before making the statement, Tanuj was heard explaining at length the need for toilets at home and the campaigns run by both the Centre and the state to make villages open defecation free (ODF). Likening the presence of a toilet to a desire to protect the dignity of women, he said many women in villages were getting raped due to the absence of toilets at home.
“Save the dignity of your women if you can. How poor are you? Raise your hands and tell me if the value of your wife is lower than Rs 12,000,” he said, referring to the amount the government pays for each toilet. “Which man would say, ‘Take the dignity of my wife and give me Rs 12,000’?” he asked.
While his remarks drew sharp criticism from various sections, Tanuj told The New Indian Express that a small portion of his long speech was being cited by “vested interests with an ulterior motive”.
“We are organising camps in every panchayat to promote toilet construction. Most people claim they do not have the money and want advances. I explained to them why toilets are necessary, and I did not say anything objectionable as being claimed,” said Tanuj.
Bihar is among the most laggard states in toilet construction despite sanitation being one of CM Nitish Kumar’s seven resolves. Bihar’s ODF coverage currently remains a lowly 31 per cent, showing marginal rise from 22 per cent in October 2014, when the scheme was launched. Only six per cent of Bihar’s villages have become ODF, and no district has been declared ODF yet. The state government is likely to declare two districts – Sitamarhi and Rohtas – as the first two ODF districts later this month.