KOLKATA: A 75-year-old woman and her 40-year-old physically-challenged daughter have begun construction of a toilet at their residence in Nowdapara village in Daulatabad in Murshidabad district of West Bengal by seeking alms.
Rahima Bewa and her daughter Kamala Khatun were forced into begging after Rahima’s three sons threw them out of the house after the death of her husband Din Mohammad 20 years ago.
Though finding it difficult to make ends meet, Rahima’s priority for a toilet came from both health and security reasons for herself and more for her disabled daughter. “We have defecated in the open our entire lives. But, some government officials told us that defecating in the open is harmful to our health. Also, it is not safe to attend to nature’s call in the open. Hence, I want a toilet in my house,” Rahima said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project Swacch Bharat is non-operational in West Bengal, where chief minister Mamata Banerjee runs her own ‘Nirmal Bangla’ project. As per the scheme, a grant of Rs 10,000 is provided to beneficiaries who have to chip in Rs 900 to complete the construction of the toilet.
However, Bewa’s sons have allegedly taken benefit of the scheme and she will have to pay Rs 15,000 for constructing her own toilet out of which she has already paid Rs 2,000 to commence construction works.
“She has created an example. We will extend all necessary help,” said Murshidabad District Magistrate P Ulaganathan.
Her efforts have also inspired other people in the neighbourhood. “If a person can construct a toilet by begging, why can’t others do it? Local Self-Help Groups (SHGs) will also extend help to Rahima Bewa,” said local SHG secretary Habiba Bibi.
Eight out of 23 districts in West Bengal have been declared as Open Defecation Free (ODF) and Murshidabad is not one of them. However, the district administration is saying that sensitisation has worked and they are planning to use Bewa’s example for others to come forward for construction of toilets in their backyard.