BULANDSHAHR: Thatched roofs, kachcha roads, dingy huts, a small almost dilapidated school and lots of cattle grazing in the front yard of huts is the usual scene that one comes across in rural India.
Since 2014, one enormous change that rural India, especially Western Uttar Pradesh, has seen is the emergence of toilets in villages under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin).
The toilets seem to have struck a chord with the people who are now inclined to give the Narendra Modi-led NDA government a second chance. Take the example of Mahav in Bulandshahr, which saw cow-related violence not too long ago.
Situated around 35 km from Bulandshahr, Mahav is an example of a typical village. Lined by sporadic sugarcane fields and rows of wheat fields on all four sides, the road leading to the village is a narrow one.
A small temple adorns the entrance of the village and leads to the rows of huts which have cows and horses grazing in front of them. Nothing different from the usual villages, or so you would think.
“We saw violence but that is a crime according to the constitution. After the BJP came to power, we got toilets and our women are not forced to defecate in the open,” village head Sukhbir says as a group of women go past him with covered faces.
Mant, a quaint village near the temple town of Mathura also prides on its toilets. Though there is simmering anger for local MP Hema Malini here, people here are upbeat and want to see Modi back in power for one reason alone – toilets. Bang on the entrance of the village is a board with the prime minister’s smiling picture. A little ahead among the many huts is a bright yellow structure, a toilet built under the Swachh Bharat Mission. It seems to be the pride of the village.
“Surgical strikes, terrorism and other issues are important but for us the best gift that the Modi government has given us. Life has become easier and schemes like these really make a difference in people’s lives,” says a 21-year-old girl shyly as her mother appears and pulls her away from the ‘media glare’.
In neighbouring Agra, though residents in and around the city complain of the city not getting enough infrastructure update, the story is quite different in the rural pockets. People here talk about the toilets built with immense pride and also strive to maintain them.
A village elder in the almost non-existent village of Bagal Ghusa in Etmadpur area of the constituency politely narrates his tale. Very At the ripe age of 89, Moumin Shaikh relaxes on a charpoi under the shade of a pepal tree in the middle of the village.
“I have been in the village since the time I was born. It took 70 years for the village to get toilets. I am not a staunch political supporter but yes, Modi has definitely given villages a new lease of life with the SBM. If anyone, I would want Modi to come back to power and do more good for rural India,” he says with a smile and calls for his afternoon tea.
‘Saving our dignity’
RANCHI: Taimun Khatoon, 62, who had not seen toilets in her entire life till last year, has now been using it regularly which was constructed by the Government at her backyard about a year back. Earlier, she had to walk at least 1 km to the nearest bushes for defecating, but now she claims that her life was made easy by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who provided them toilets near their houses.
“Modi has really changed our lives…now our children do not have to go out every morning for defecation as he has constructed toilets for each and every household in the village. He has done two great jobs, firstly, constructed toilets for everyone and secondly, provided gas connection for all which has really changed the life of people, especially women in the villages,” said Taimun.
Gulnaaz Parveen, daughter of Taimun, who travels a distance of around 30 km daily to pursue her graduation from Ranchi College, said, “Modi should remain in power at least for another five years to give a complete makeover to the society.”
Not only Muslims, but Dalits also laud the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan and are also of the view that if this government is given another chance, it will bring complete transformation in the society.
“People who never cared for cleanliness in their entire lives, now keep their surroundings clean even in this remote village after they were told to maintain cleanliness by Modi on TV and radio,” said Gopal Mahli of the adjoining Malsiring village.
Good for business
PATNA: Sunita Devi, 45, unschooled but socially aware of toilet importance, at Muzaffarpur’s Rajala village said she along with four fellow women members of her family, have forgotten to go in the open in 2015. “A toilet built in the backyard of my thatched house had changed the culture of my family. We will return thanks to Modi in election,” she said.
Suresh Kumar, who runs a small construction shop of latrine pits, said, “The sale of cemented pits for the construction of latrines has increased more than three times. On an average we sell around 100 pits and other materials like footrests in a week.”
About 2km away from her on NH57 connecting Muzaffarpur to Darbhanga lies a cluster of around 50 huts-Sikandarghat. The inhabitants are either rag-pickers or housemaids.
Nirmala Devi, 45, and her three daughters, all aged between 14 and 20, said a toilet built at her hut, thanks to local administration, had saved their self-dignity.
“We will never forget this and go to vote. But what is bad is that we got only Rs 10,000 out of Rs 12,000 to build a latrine. There is no door, so we hang a curtain to ensure privacy,” she said.
Akhilesh K Das, who runs a shoe-repairing outlet near Darbhanga in Bihar, said he doesn’t know who launched it but he had got a latrine built with the help of local ward councillor. It still doesn’t have a door, and locals use a tin sheet as a makeshift door. Feroz Alam, Ghirani village in Supaul said, “It is our right to get toilets as a citizen. The government has done it out of obligatory constitutional duty.”
Homes for all
Malikhedi (Bhopal): Housing 365 voters and around 60 families, 57 of which are Muslim families, the Malikhedi village in Huzur assembly segment of Bhopal Lok Sabha seat has traditionally been home to Congress voters.
But the advent of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan envisaged at making the country open defecation free and the houses for BPL families under the PM Awas Yojana could mark a shift in traditional voting pattern in Malikhedi and adjoining Sikandarabad and Mughlai Chhap villages, which too house sizeable Muslim and Dalit population.
30-year-old Wasim Khan, daily wage labourer, said, “The twin schemes of Modi government have not only ensured that my wife and kids don’t have to unsafely defecate under the sky, but we hope to soon shift into a proper house under the PM Awas Yojana, bidding adieu to the makeshift house, which often used to be thrown away during rains and storm.”
“In the coming Lok Sabha polls, me and wife will press the EVM button for the PM, as we can’t betray a man, who works for our safety and hygiene.”
Sources in Malikhedi village say around 20-25 toilets have been built under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and 5-7 houses constructed under the PM Housing Scheme in the village.
Inputs by: Pushkar Banakar, Richa Sharma, Pranab Mandal, Mukesh Ranjan, Rajesh Kumar Thakur, Ejaz Kaiser