Dalit Women demand Sanitation & Dignity

No toilets for village in Kaithal, Haryana.

Even as the north Indian state of Haryana celebrates the successful implementation of the Total Sanitation Campaign, every day the around 800 residents of the village of Titram in Haryana are forced to defecate in the open. The traditional piece of land where that the villagers used as an open community toilet has been taken away by the authorities who have a made a vague promise to build infrastructure for modern toilets. In the meantime, the people have no choice to squat on the sides of the busy roads.

Defecating across the road is not only dangerous and unsanitary but demeaning and humiliating. Vulnerable groups like young girls, women and children are the greatest risk. The women especially are forced to wake up before the break of dawn or wait till late evening so they can be covered by the darkness.

“A majority of the village population are dalits,” explains Community Correspondent Amit Kumar who made a video on the absence of basic sanitation in Titram. “Most of them are employed as daily wage labourers and at the end of a hard day’s work; they can barely manage to make ends meet. And adding to the marginalization is the fact that the village borders two districts- Kaithal and Jind. Each district tries to pass on the responsibility of the village to the other and in the bargain, the village is left in shambles.”

The Total Sanitation Campaign is a rural program promises the construction of individual households Latrines (IHHLs) for families living below the poverty line, construction of institutional toilets like schools and Anganwaris, and women Sanitary Complexes besides low cost solid and liquid Waste Management. Reports say that over 800 villages in rural Haryana benefitted from this scheme but Titram seems to have been left out of the loop.

“The authorities have promised the people that if they come together with 10% of the budget required to construct a toilet, the government is prepared to put in the remaining,” says Amit. “It is a scheme that has worked elsewhere but in a village like Titram where people are living hand to mouth it seems like an unreasonable demand. The few rich people in the village already have private toilet so they are not willing to contribute while the majority poor have been left with no options.”

The village of Titram is asking only for a degree of convenience and dignity. But so far even the most basic human needs have seemed out of reach.