Six Kushinagar women leave in-laws' homes over lack of toilets
Six newly-wed women returned to their parents' homes after they found no toilets at their in-laws houses.
They left the homes of their in-laws, saying they would return only when toilets are constructed for them.
Talking to reporters on Sunday, one of the women, Gudiya Devi, said she had waited a long time before finally deciding to leave because of a lack of a toilet.
"Our in-laws used to say every now and then that they'll make the toilet, but they never did. They were facing difficulties in getting the toilet constructed. They did not have enough money for it. But, since they couldn't make it, I had to come back to my home. And until it is not constructed, I will not go back to my in-laws' place," said Devi.
In India, children and poor households bear the brunt of poor sanitation. Millions of people in both rural and urban areas still have to defecate in the open, do not wash their hands and cope with poor drainage systems.
The premature deaths, treatment of the sick for illnesses like diarrhoea, malaria, trachoma and intestinal worms, as well as the time lost due to illness costs India dearly.
Further millions are lost in "access time" - time spent looking to access a shared toilet or open defecation site compared to having a toilet in one's own home.
Most of the women of the villages in Kushinagar district have to defecate in the open. The government has been unable to provide any help to the people who cannot afford to construct toilets in their homes.
A resident of Kushinagar, Aasma Parveen, said it is extremely difficult for women, especially daughters-in-law to go out to defecate in broad daylight.
"I feel extremely sad when women have to go out to defecate in the open, which is difficult, especially in the morning. It is still easy for the daughters of the house, because someone will look out for them, but for newly-wed daughters-in-law, it is extremely difficult," said Parveen.
The villagers are unable to fulfil their daily requirement of food and cannot even think of constructing a toilet.
Reportedly, Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak had announced that his non-governmental organisation (NGO) will construct toilets at the (in-laws') houses of all the six women, free of cost and without any delay. Additionally, the brides will also be honoured by Sulabh for taking this stand.
Inadequate toilets in schools and work places also incur losses as women and girls are often absent or refuse to attend due to the indignity and lack of privacy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech on August 15 too urged the lawmakers and corporates to help construct toilets.
The sight of people defecating by railway tracks or even by the roadside is so common in India that residents turn a blind eye to the problem and do not give it the seriousness it deserves.
With better sanitation in India, where thousands die of diarrhea and gastro-intestinal disease, people will not fall ill so much, can work better and get out of poverty.
In India, World Toilet Organisation (WTO) works with several NGOs that build and maintain public toilets. But the need is to think beyond just building more toilets that are seldom maintained and get taken over by encroachers.
(Posted on 18-08-2014)