Bihar officials act tough on this village, cut water and power for not building enough toilets 

Nearly 300 residents of Mahsar village were shocked to learn that they were deprived of electricity and water because they had not built enough toilets under Swachh Bharat Mission. 

Published: 29th March 2017 06:59 PM  |   Last Updated: 29th March 2017 06:59 PM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purpose.

Express News Service

PATNA: In their eagerness to declare a village open defecation free (ODF) as fast as possible, administration officials in Bihar’s southern Sheikhpura district disconnected supply of water and electricity to the village for four days.

Nearly 300 residents of Mahsar village under Sadar block in the district were shocked to learn that they were deprived of electricity and piped water since Saturday because they had not built enough toilets in their homes under the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) programme. After a number of complaints lodged with the block and district authorities, power and water supply to the village resumed on Tuesday afternoon, said villagers.

“This was an unjust, draconian measure adopted by some government officials to punish the villagers for the slow progress in building toilets. Most villagers are currently busy in agriculture work, which has caused delay in building toilets,” said Bajir Yadav, a resident of Mahsar. “We had to suffer for nearly four days in the absence of electricity and water due to this unjust order,” said Mukesh Kumar, another villager.

Local government officials, however, denied having ordered disconnection of water and electricity supply to the village. They, however, admitted that “some pressure” is being put on villagers who are found slow in completing construction of toilets under the SBM.

“We are putting some pressure on villagers to ensure that they complete construction of their toilets as soon as they can, but we have not ordered disconnection of water and power supply,” said Sunil Kumar Chand, the block development officer (BDO). In some cases, to deal with families who are found neglecting toilet construction work, orders have been passed that they be not given kerosene and food grains under PDS for some days, he added.

Zilla parishad vice-president Ranjeet Kumar accused local government officials of deliberately harassing hundreds of villagers in the name of speedy toilet construction. “When villagers contacted electricity department’s executive engineer Mrityunjay Kumar about the blackout, he said it was not due to any technical fault. We later found out that it was ordered by some officials,” he said.

According to Bihar’s rural development minister Shravan Kumar, one sub-division, 13 blocks, 526 gram panchayats and over 3,000 villages in the state have already been made open defecation-free. However, out of 2.13 crore families living in the state’s rural areas, a staggering 1.60 crore families still do not have toilets in their houses, the minister said in the Assembly recently.

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