By Imran Khan
Several Class X students of a school in Bihar have forsworn gold jewellery until their parents build toilets in their homes to save them the shame of having to go out into the open to defecate.
In a bid to put pressure on parents to construct toilets to safeguard their hygiene, security and saving themselves from constant shame -- Richa, Jyoti, Ranju, Rabina, Khushbu and Puja Kumari decided to wear their gold lockets only when they will not be forced to defecate in the open anymore.
They are six of 18 Class 10 students in a government girl high school in Bihar's Buxar district -about 125km from Patna-, who are still asked to defecate in the open as their houses lack toilets, a district official told IANS.
"During an inspection of their school by a district administration official, Anupam Singh, the girls were asked if they did not have toilet in their homes and 18 of them raised their hands.
"The girls also said that they want toilets to be built so that they don't have to defecate outside and expressed their shame and agony. They removed their gold lockets and handed them over to Singh and took an oath not to wear them unless their demands were met," another official said.
"I was both happy and upset over their determination for a toilet as these girls are fully aware of the necessity of a toilet while they have been living without a basic amenity like that so far," Anupam Singh said.
Interestingly, the girls revealed that their parents are neither poverty stricken nor facing any financial crunch, but pointed out that the construction of a toilet never figured in their agenda.
"We are ashamed of living without a toilet that forces us and our mothers to defecate outside," said Khushbu, adding that her parents were ignoring her repeated appeals for building a toilet at home.
Another class 10 girl, Puja said: "I, along with my mother, am forced to make our way to an open field every night under the cover of darkness to relieve ourselves."
In a last few months, IANS has reported several stories with rare steps by individual women to get toilets constructed at their houses in Bihar.
One such woman was Shanti Devi, a poor woman in her early 40s who chose to sell her four goats to finance the construction of a toilet at her house in a village in Rohtas district, as she considers it a shame for a woman to defecate in the open.
Shanti had kept the four goats to raise money for the medical treatment of her paralysed husband, who has been bed-ridden for over one-and-a-half-years.
"I have sold my goats to raise money to construct a toilet. I have finally built a toilet and fulfilled my dream," said Shanti, a resident of Khaira Bhutha village, adding that a toilet in every home is a must.
In another instance, Phulkumari Devi, in her mid-20s, a resident of Barahkhanna village in Rohtas, mortgaged her gold and silver jewellery to raise money for the construction of a toilet at her house.
In some cases, women, including newly-weds, divorced their husbands and left their in-laws' houses because they failed to get toilets constructed and made them suffer the humiliation of going out in the
As millions of people in Bihar are still living without toilets, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar earlier launched a key scheme from his seven resolves, 'Shauchalay Nirmaan, Ghar Ka Sammaan' (a toilet for
every household) in towns and villages of the state by the end of 2019.
The state government would provide Rs 12,000 per family for constructing toilets in urban and rural areas, while community toilets would be built for those who do not have space for constructing one.
According to Development Commissioner Shishir Sinha, there are 1.60 crore families who still do not have toilets in their homes in the state.
(Imran Khan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)