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
“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
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
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.