Geeta Ben, 30, who works as agriculture labour in Surendernagar district in Saurashtra no more gets up before dawn and walk outskirts of village to answer nature’s call – thanks to government funding that she has a toilet in her house. Geeta Ben who lives with her family of 8 in Bhaskarpara village is happy to have a toilet but would it be a reason for her to vote for BJP in the Lok Sabha election, she is not sure as she looks towards her husband for an answer.
“We will vote for the party based on the decision taken by our sarpanch. There will be a meeting in the village before the election date (April 23) and everyone would be told which party we should vote for,” says Ketan Bhai, who has small farmland where they grow sesame.
The toilet in Geeta’s village was built a year ago but not everyone was lucky to have a private toilet for themselves. Villages across Saurashtra – Bhavnagar, Amreli, Junagadh and Surendernagar complain of half built toilets as contractors never came back after taking government sanctioned money from villagers. ““There was a target to construct 150 toilets in my village but not even 15 have been completed after 2 years. There is a big scam in this toilet scheme of the government and majority of people don’t
even use them,” said Kunwarji Bhai P Chauhan, former sarpanch of Karmad village in Surendernagar.
As you travel through the rural belt of Saurashtra one can spot newly constructed toilets outside houses but at some places doors, roof and seats are missing. “They (contractors) came six months back in our village and put up a frame and roof. They told us that they will come back in some time to fix the seat and we need to give the money to them to buy it. Since then they haven’t come back and entire structure is standing and is of no use to us,” says Anandi Ben, who lives in Thesa village in Bhavnagar district.
There are scores of people who have similar complaints but toilet is not on top of their mind when they will exercise their franchise. “It was a scheme started with good initiative but there are many such schemes that don’t work. Even Ujjwala scheme, we don’t have money to refill cylinder for `900 and we continue to cook on firewood. We have bigger problems like scarcity of water, crop failure and delayed compensation through insurance and those will be decisive when we vote,” said Goverdhan Sorathiya, a farmer in Amreli district.