Election promises already down the drain?
Pratapur village in District Auraiya, UP, are yet to get enough toilets to meet their needs
Pratapur is a small village in District Auraiya, of Uttar Pradesh, and its residents are still to see a functional toilet. Thousands of women, men, young and old are forced to defecate in the open everyday. According to the village head, Sant Kumar Naik, there are around 700 houses in the village and its total population numbers around 4000. There are around 1800 eligible voters here. Most of the adults here are daily wage earners, and work as laborers. Some own a small plot of land where they grow wheat, millets and rice. The average daily income per person is less than Rs 300.
While many elections have come and gone, along with the promises made, the biggest problem that the villagers here face is a lack of toilets. According to Naik, the villagers are still forced to defecate in the open. Naik said that there are around 140 toilets in the village, out of which 40 were constructed by him. However, most of the toilets are not in the condition to be used. The structures are not made up of good quality bricks and cement and many of them don’t have a water supply as well.
The budget for making these toilets is very low, and the residents can’t afford to pay extra money for ensuring a good quality construction. So they are forced to defecate in the open even now. The budget allocated by the government is Rs 12,000, which is not enough to make a quality toilet, said the villagers. The money that comes from the government is transferred to the villagers’ accounts. The village head then asks them to give Rs 8,000-10,000 as an additional payment if they want a “good quality toilet” to be made.
The villagers, also, claim that toilets that were made in the budget allocated by the government were not good. They recalled that nearly 30 toilets broke in the span of just six months. As the toilets that exist don’t have proper water connections, many were used for storing fodder for cattle or materials that were not of use for them. The villagers have demanded that the government raise the budget upto ₹25,000 per toilet.
According to Naik the women residents are really concerned about this issue. Many have come to him and asked that toilets be built for them as well. “It is difficult for us to defecate in the open during the rainy season, we can slip or be bitten by a snake,” said Sushila Devi (27).
Everyday the villagers have to walk one kilometer away to find a place to defecate in an open field. They have to cross farms , which are surrounded by wires and thorn fencing. Many sustain serious cuts and bruises due to this.
According to Suman Devi, (30) it is the women in particular who face many problems when they have to go out for defecation. They are often abused or stopped by owners of the farms they have to cross to find a spot. “If good quality toilets are made then it will be a huge help for women as well. We won’t be forced to go out in the open. This will also ensure that we are healthy and safe,” said Suman.
Uttam Singh, a 24-year-old daily wage earner, said during the rainy season, when the grass grows, many people have been bitten by snakes. He fears that this could happen to him as well someday.