PATNA: Gazipur in Bihar’s southern Nawada district is among a handful of villages in the state known for the visible affluence of its residents. Many of the nearly 200 families living here have modern gadgets such as colour TV sets, air-conditioners and geysers, and quite a few have cars. But none has a toilet in their homes.
Despite the Centre’s stress on Swachh Bharat, the villagers of Gazipur walk out of their pucca houses every morning to ease themselves in the open. The village panchayat has demarcated separate areas for men and women. The familiar scene of men, women and children walking with lotas (metal or plastic water containers) has given Gazipur, 14 km off the district headquarters town of Nawada, a curious distinction.
Not that the villagers are unaware of the government’s efforts to make the country open defecation free (ODF), and nor are they unwilling to have toilets at their homes. But they are constrained by a superstition that originated 29 years ago. Building a toilet in the house could lead to the immediate death of a family member, they fear.
“Everyone here is acutely aware of this fear, which started in 1988, when a man named Siddheshwar Singh started to a toilet in his home, but gave up midway because his young son died suddenly,” said Shivdani Prasad Verma, a resident of Gazipur. In an eerie repeat, a few months later, another man Shyamdev Singh lost his son when a toilet was under construction in his home.
College student Shruti Suman said women face the brunt of this superstition. “Women here watch the Swachh Bharat advertisements on TV. But they have to rise at dawn, to go out before the men are up and about,” she said. Worse, families often find it difficult to get brides for their young men for want of toilets in the village.
Nawada MP and Union minister Giriraj Singh said he would himself make efforts to get Gazipur villagers to built toilets in their homes. “I was so far unaware of this practice. I will soon visit the village and talk to the villagers,” he said.
Families often find it difficult to get brides for their young men for want of toilets in Gazipur village of Nawada district. “Families in other villages are reluctant to offer their girls in marriage to our village. This remains a problem,” said Dilip Kumar, a villager.
“A few months after the wedding, daughters-in-law demand toilets in the house.
But nobody builds toilets due to the superstition,” said Umashankar Singh.
He recalled how a marriage proposal for a man that came from nearby Jehanabad district recently was rejected precisely for the want of a toilet in the village. Although a toilet was built at the government primary school in the village some eight years ago, it remains unused. The school has about 200 students,” said Singh.
Government officials engaged in making villages Open Defecation Free said they are trying to wean away the villagers from the superstition. “We are going to take the help of local intellectuals to convince villagers,” said BDO Radharaman Murari.