There are 200 homes in this Bihar village. With evident signs of urbanisation dotting the area, you could find geysers, air-conditioners and even cars in the homes of the residents. However, not one of the homes in the region has a toilet. The residents of this place have heard of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mission and even admire the nationwide cleanliness drive. However, they just can’t stop defecating in open.
It may sound strange but this is the hard reality of Gazipur village in Nawada district of Bihar. Early mornings are usually the time when one can spot groups of people of all age, from children to adults, moving towards open fields to relieve themselves. This reporter visited the the village to find out what was keeping back the residents of Gazipur from adopting a healthier habit.
Shyam Sundar Singh, a resident of the village on his way to the fields says, “At least in this village, all of us have accepted this as our fate. I am not sure but concerted effort by the government may yield results. Money is not the problem. You see, almost all have pucca houses. But mindset needs to change.”
And at the root of this aversion to use toilets is a three-decade-old incident which has taken the shape of a superstition so strong that no one has the courage to build a toilet. Another resident in the village Shivdani Prasad Verma recalls, “In the year 1988 Sidheshwar Singh decided to build a toilet. The construction started but it had to stop as his young son died. It was an unnatural death. A few months after Shyamdev Singh started construction of a toilet but his son also died. The two instances left deep rooted conviction amid people that building a toilet will result in the loss of dear ones. After that no one even thought of constructing a toilet.”
Even though a government school in the area has a toilet, as it was made by the officials, the villagers have made sure that no one uses the facility. The commode is blocked with stray leaves and garbage to make the facility defunct.
However, the worst affected by this practice are the women of this village, who face a lot of difficulty due to lack of toilets. “Panchayat have demarcated areas for men and women in the open field. But you can imagine how much we have to bear. We make sure that we leave our homes well before sunrise when it's still dark," an elderly woman in the village Suman says. She adds that even other women do not speak up against this so called tradition as the superstition linked to toilets also as deep roored effect on them. "Who will take the risk of endangering the lives of sons of the family? Outsiders say that this is a superstition but who will alleviate the fear”, she asks.
But people of Gazipur also face another side effect of this superstition. Because of the strange traditions, and the inconvenience caused by it, people from other villages don't want to marry their daughter in Gazipur. A villager Shyadev says, “Those who have migrated are less affected. People know they will be living in Patna or Delhi or somewhere else. But youths living here face this problem.”
Anil Vishal is a Bihar-based journalist with ETV network
Updated Date: Jun 27, 2017 16:04 PM