The other day I read a news about 13 people, including 10 women, being mowed down by a speeding truck in Etawah when they were returning home after answering a call of nature. Immediately my attention was drawn towards another incident when absence of toilets almost deprived a man of his marital bliss as his newly-wed bride ran away from her in-laws house on the third day of her marriage in Maharajganj district in eastern Uttar Pradesh because she was told that she will have to defecate in the open because her-in laws does not have toilet in their home.

Story goes like this: Priyanka Bharati, a dalit, got married to Amarjeet Kumar of village Vishnupur Khurd in Maharajganj district, 300 km south-east of Lucknow, on May 2. Three days later she ran away from her in-laws houses because she felt embarrassing to know that women still defecate in the open. Her mother Kamlavati tried to convince her saying in villages people defecate in open but Priyanka was adamant and she she would not go to in-laws till they construct a toilet.

Priyanka was not alone. Another Priyanka, this time Rajbhar in Kushinagar and Jyoti Kumari from Sant Kabir Nagar, 350 km south-east of Lucknow, also had refused to go to in-laws houses till a toilet was constructed there. The three returned on June 28 after Sulabh Internation got toilets constructed in their in-laws house

The news of 13 people crushed under a truck reminded me of these three newly bride who had the courage to raise their voice against a system. In rural India women generally defecate in the open in the absence of toilets. They go before sunrise or after nightfall to avoid being seen. Women suffer the most. They suffer silently. They have to wait patiently for darkness for the sake of privacy while attending to the call of nature.In UP whooping 63 per cent of population still defecate in open.

The worst part is that Government of Uttar Pradesh has launched Total sanitation Campaign in collaboration with Government of India. Under this scheme low cost latrines are being built in villages. A probe launched early this year showed that over 1.60 crore toilets were constructed only on paper. This shows public money has been flushed away.

Thus, the lives of 13 people who died in Etawah accident could have been saved had officials in Etawah constructed toilets in their houses. But who cares!. The death was registered in police files as freak accident while those responsible for construction of toilets walked home laughing.

The accompanying pix is that of Priyanka Bharati, who returned to her in-laws after they constructed a toilet for her. A function was organised on this occasion.

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