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A toilet @ rupees 300

Sunday May 22, 2011 08:40:07 PM, Aleem Faizee,

All-in-one: About 90% of the couples who live in joint families don’t have any option but to share the only room in their house - which serves simultaneously as kitchen, drawing room and dining hall during the day, as ‘bedroom’ in the night


The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) in an important decision taken June 02, 2011 approved an extra Rs.1,348 crore to construct toilets under the "total sanitation campaign" meant for those living below poverty line (BPL). It means that the very poor in India can now build toilets at their home -- for Rs.300. The rest of the money will come from the central and state governments. By this the government expects that all rural households will have access to sanitation facilities by March 2015.

Looks quite affordable and practical! But sorry, not for the more than 46,000 families – yes families, living below the poverty line in Malegaon – the Muslim dominated town in North Maharashtra famous for its powerloom industries. Why? This question was raised by the District Collector P. Velrasu also when he visited the town the very next day of taking the charge. After a swift round of the entire town, he wanted to know why the town lacks so miserably in terms of basic amenities. He was especially critical of the pathetic conditions of the public toilets and was visibly shocked after witnessing the way people were openly defecating all around the public grounds.

“It’s shocking”, he quipped before adding, ”At least, Malegaon should have a toilet each for its houses by now. The government has allocated a huge fund for this purpose and they are released easily.”


“But the space needed to build a toilet is actually the size of the house where more than half of the population live”, I remember telling him.

He was quite perplexed hearing this. But I had statistics to back my claim. It remains on the government record that in part of the Malegaon city, which is dominated by the Muslims, people living per sq kilometre are 68,000 as against 20,000, the normal. Situation in the remaining part of the town which has Hindus as dominant is also alarming - it has 48,000 people living per sq kilometre. It is this ghettoisation of the town which makes it almost impossible to implement any government scheme. The result is that the sign of improvement vis-à-vis social, economic, basic infrastructure and other such sectors, which is visible in other parts of the country is seen nowhere in Malegaon.

The impact of the ghettoisation does not limit just here. It is creating health issues and other social problems for the natives, with the danger escalating day by day. Especially at risk are the pregnant women who have to wait till sunset to use the public grounds as ‘open-air toilets’.

How the ghettoisaton has destroyed the normal marital life can be judged from the fact that about 90% of the couples who live in joint families don’t have any option but to share the only room in their house - which serves simultaneously as kitchen, drawing room and dining hall during the day, as ‘bedroom’ in the night. Having said this one won’t need any further clarification for why the nights do not sleep in Malegaon and people spend hours sitting in chowks, nukkads and teal stalls at the time when most in the world are in bed.

At this point, questions can be raised why people are not shifting to the outskirts of Malegaon for a better living that too when it has enough landscape for expansion. Answer to this question does not require a deep pondering or hard mathematics. For, the town depends almost wholly on the local textile industry and it makes any kind of analysis quite easy. How much a person is earning from the industry is quite open and also open is the fact that they earn so little that they could hardly save anything for future planning.

But yes. There are people who somehow managed to come out of this ‘vicious poverty circle’ to build a ‘home’ in the outskirts. However, thanks to the attitude of the local Civic Body towards these people who dared to break the jinx, people left behind could not gather courage to follow them even if they have money. For, in more than ten years when this new basti groomed in the outskirts, the Civic Body could not provide them water, sanitation, roads and other basic amenities needed for a smooth living. Worse, it does not seem to be having any plan to stop the creation of one more ghetto – this time in the outskirts of Malegaon with even more problems and bigger issues.

Against this backdrop it is not difficult to ascertain why a toilet at a meagre 300 rupees is also not possible in Malegaon. The question is when the government will realise its responsibilities towards Malegaon which is now all set to cross half a million population. Till the answer to this question comes, people will continue to believe that Malegaon is being punished because it has Muslims as the dominating population, and as IAS Meeta Lochan had once said, for its contribution towards the country during the freedom struggle.









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