As if to buttress Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's emphasis on drinking water and sanitation in his reply to the motion of thanks to the President's address, a young woman was rewarded for her successful insistence on a toilet as a precondition for living at her husband's place.

Anita Bai Narre of Chichouli village of Betul district in Madhya Pradesh was handed a cheque for Rs. 5 lakh by Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh, on behalf of Sulabh International, for standing up for her dignity on reaching her husband's place and demanding the construction of a toilet.

Sulabh International chairman Bindeshwar Pathak presided over the function.

Anita's courage has changed the picture of her in-law's village (Ratanpur) which is now heading towards cleanliness. Out of its 157 houses, 100 now have toilets — thanks to the bold stand taken by her on her arrival there after her marriage to Shivram Narre in May last year.

Within eight days, Shivram, a casual labourer, constructed the toilet and got his wife back. He got about Rs. 2200 from the gram panchayat and contributed Rs. 2000 from his kitty.

The couple, who are expecting their first child in June, credited each other for the change ushered in their lives. “He [Shivram], too, should be given the credit as he accepted my demand,” Anita, a second year BA student, maintained.

On his part, Shivram, a matriculate, said that Anita's demand was just and it did not cause him annoyance. The couple have already made plans on how to spend the reward money though Shivram said that he would be happier to have a permanent job.

Referring to his earlier statement that cleanliness was as important as praying to God, Mr. Ramesh said it was time to give equal importance to cleanliness. Underlining the need to pursue the task as a social campaign, he pointed out both the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister have accorded the highest priority to drinking water and sanitation by allocating more funds in the budget.

Mr. Ramesh said that all the 2.5 lakh gram panchayats would be turned into nirmal gram panchayats within a decade. “The thrust is not just to construct toilets, but to use and keep them clean — not use them as storage spaces for vegetables and food grain.” Admitting that the task at hand was not easy, he added that it demanded a behavioural change.

Keywords: sanitationtoiletshygiene

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