New Delhi: Rani, 60, says the women in her area form a collective before they head to the fields to defecate — fear being the driving factor behind the decision. “Of course, we feel scared — at night especially,” she says.
The fields of Jheemarpura, which is part of Jaunti, a village in north-west Delhi, serve as a toilet not just for women but men and children as well.
Only, they really shouldn’t.
Udit Raj, the Lok Sabha MP from North-West Delhi constituency, under which Jaunti falls, had declared Jheemarpura an open-defecation free (ODF) zone in May 2018. It was the result, he said, of him having adopted the village as part of the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, a rural development scheme that the Narendra Modi government launched in 2014.
Raj, a prominent Dalit leader of the BJP, had reiterated these claims in an interview to ThePrint’s My543 initiative. “Two villages, Khampur and Jheemarpura, were made open-defecation free by me,” he had said in the interview. “With the help of my NGO, Buddha Education Foundation, I got toilets installed in the houses of the villagers.”
On the ground, however, the situation could not be further from these statements.
Half-baked structures, pits dug up for toilets
Villagers in Jheemarpura say only a handful of homes have functioning toilets.
When ThePrint visited the area, it found that another handful had half-baked toilet structures — some lacking a seat and some lacking a sewage system. As a result, they are either untouched or, at best, being used as storage areas.
The majority of the households, however, have no toilets.
In some of the homes, the ground has been dug up for a toilet to be built but the earth has been left as it is.
“We have two young children and really wanted a toilet for them,” said Manoj, a resident. “We were hopeful when they came to our house to build a toilet, but they left after just digging up some portion of the land. It doesn’t look good when we take our young kids to the khet (fields) to relieve themselves, but we have no other option.”
Manoj also claims that because the authorities left one dug-up portion, kids end up falling into it accidentally while playing. “My youngest fell down a few times, we had to get the ground covered with a tile after that,” he said.
Baljit Singh, a member of the residents’ welfare association, said Jheemarpura and Jaunti village are far from being ODF. “Only some work has been done but a lot of it is left,” Singh said. “Why the delay in building toilets? Only the MP and his NGO can tell. The work has been completely neglected.”
Asked about this situation, Udit Raj said the delay was not his fault. “We have issued the funds from our end,” he said. “The contract to build the toilets was given to an NGO but they did not deliver. The work has been pending for the last four to five months because of some dispute, the contractor ran away and we have filed a complaint against him.”
On being asked why he had claimed that Jheemarpura was ODF, it wasn’t the case, Raj said: “If it isn’t ODF, it will be in the next month or so. The other village, Khampur, is definitely ODF.”
Rekha Vora, director of the project in the MP’s office, who is in charge of Jaunti village, said the toilets would be delivered by the end of May, without fail. “The funds for building the toilets were given by the Rotary club of Chanakyapuri. But because the NGO which had the contract failed to deliver, we have given the contract to Sulabh International.”
Plans remain plans, but vote will be for Modi
A shikargah or hunting lodge from the time of Mughal emperor Shahjahan lies at the heart of Jaunti. Udit Raj’s plans for the village included converting the Mughal era ruins into a tourist spot, an international sports academy, and a 100-bedded hospital, among other things.
The hunting lodge continues to be in a state of ruin, with residents claiming officials have paid a few visits in the past years but with no real reparations.
While a stadium is being built in the village, people claim basic amenities like a hospital continue to remain unrealised.
But ask villagers whom they will vote for in the upcoming 2019 elections, and they say “Modi”.
Raja, a shopkeeper who has lived in Jaunti all his life, is upset that no hospital was built. But he says he will still vote for the BJP.
“No matter who gets the ticket, Udit Raj or someone else, my vote is for the BJP,” he said. “My vote is for Modiji.”
North-West Delhi votes in the sixth phase on 12 May.