Women candidates irked over mandatory provisions of toilets at their homes for panchayat polls

BHOPAL: Women Panchayat representatives of the state have objected to the provision which makes mandatory for candidates in Panchayat polls to construct toilets at their homes.

They were here to participate in a dialoque on ‘Women’s Participation in Panchayat Elections’ organised by The Hunger Project India at a local hotel here on Wednesday. The Hunger Project has launched a SVEEP campaign in the state in view of the upcoming Panchayat polls.

The women panchayat representative said that candidature in elections was a ‘personal’ decision while having a toilet at home was a ‘family decision’. “Ours is a male-dominated society and if the men in our families do not get a toilet constructed, why should we suffer. This is patently undemocratic,” they argued.

They also demanded that like MPs and MLAs, the office-bearers of Panchayati institutions should also get pension and an expenditure limit should be imposed on candidates.

When asked about the claim that the state has become Open Defecation Free (ODF), they told Free Press that toilets have been built, but they are not being used for want of water. “At some places, toilets are being used as kitchens and storerooms,” one of them said.

Excerpts:

Meera Singh, Sarpanch, Dubgawa, Rewa

Most of the poor in villages live in kutcha houses built on the land of the farmers for whom they work. And the farmers are reluctant to allow them to build toilets. Even if toilets are constructed, they are not used. Two ‘Lotas’ of water is enough for a person to relieve himself in the open but if he uses a toilet, he needs two buckets. My village has a population of 1,200 and has 350 toilets. More than 10 % of them are not being used.

Deepa Varkhede, Panch, Moharia, Balaghat

Of the 35 toilets in my village of 800 residents, most are not being used. There are only three hand pumps in the village. Before building toilets, the government should solve the water problem of the villages through Nal-Jal Yojana, Kapildhara and other schemes.

Ramkali Saiyam, deputy Sarpanch, Moharia, Balaghat

There are 180 toilets in four villages of my Panchayat but only a quarter of them are being used. Around 2,000 people live in the villages but there are only 15 hand pumps. There is no piped water supply. People have to fetch water from long distances. How can we expect them to bring water for toilets? Moreover, the government pays the cost of the toilet after it is constructed. Tell me, how will a poor man arrange the cement, the sand and other construction material?

Pinki Dahiya, Panch, Majihar, Rewa

My village Panchayat has 8-10 hand pumps. There are also some wells and ponds. But wells and ponds dry up during the summers. Now, pipelines are being laid under Nal- Jal Yojana. There are 350 toilets. Almost 20% of them are not being used. One reason is that the villagers are not in the habit of using toilets.

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