The Katihar district administration has directed block development officers to ensure that every household had at least one lavatory after a woman left her husband for the lack of one.
Taking a lesson from a young woman who left her in-laws’ house six months ago because of the lack of lavatory, the administration passed the order on Saturday.
Puja Kumari, a 19-year-old, is now living with her parents at Navabganj Purab Tola village in Katihar district, around 400km northeast of Patna. She left her in-laws’ house in the district’s Semapur Sakreli village when none of them paid any heed to her demands.
She said: “There were times when villagers would pass lewd comments at me when I went to defecate in the open. I could not bear it and asked my in-laws to construct a lavatory in the house. No one heard my plea. My husband and in-laws instead said I was making a big deal out of nothing. They said I had to live like the other women in the village. I did not want this so I left for my parents’ house. I told my in-laws I would stay there till a lavatory is constructed at the house. I am away from my husband, but I have to take a stand for my dignity.”
She isn’t the only woman in Bihar who has taken the step to live away from their husbands for the lack of toilets and lavatories. Paro Devi left her in-laws’ home in Sadeshopur, around 35km west of Patna, and stayed away for more than a year when they refused to construct a toilet at home. She also promised not to return home till a toilet was constructed.
Puja said her in-laws convened meeting of the panchayat members four months ago so that she could be brought back home. The panchayat too stood by her.
Radheshyam Sah, deputy development commissioner, Katihar, said he issued the directive to the block development officers (BDOs) on Saturday when he heard of the case.
“We have a programme of constructing lavatories in every panchayat, but the implementation is very slow. When I heard of Puja’s case, I directed all the BDOs to ensure it was implemented properly. I am very inspired by this girl’s initiative and have asked all the BDOs to ensure that every household in every panchayat has at least one lavatory. At least 100 lavatories should be constructed in every panchayat,” he told The Telegraph over phone from Katihar.
Shilpi Singh, who runs NGO Bhoomika Vihar in Katihar and played a pivotal role in propagating Puja’s case, said: “It takes a lot of courage to take this kind of an initiative. I salute her.”