What is on the wish list of women in India PM Modi’s hometown?

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What is on the wish list of women in India PM Modi's hometown?


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Mani Ben takes a tin can filled with water to the field where she has to defecate in the open

Since becoming India’s prime minister in 2014, Narendra Modi has consistently promoted his government’s pet campaign to clean up the country. BBC Hindi’s Priyanka Dubey travelled to Mr Modi’s hometown to see how it had progressed under the scheme, and found out the one thing that women there want – toilets.

As I approached the town of Vadnagar in the western Indian state of Gujarat, the glitter and shine of the government’s most ambitious flagship scheme Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or “Clean India Mission” felt dim.

Vadnagar, a municipality situated in Gujarat’s Mehsana district, is where Mr Modi was born and spent his early childhood. It is now being developed as a tourist place of historical importance.

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Vadnagar is now being developed as a tourist place of historical importance

In Rohit Vaas locality, which has a large Dalit (formerly known as untouchables) population, I received a message saying “you have entered Vadnagar wifi zone” on my smartphone. The public wifi facilitated by the government worked well, but when I asked around for a toilet, things started unravelling.

A group of female students took me to a nearby ground where they would go to defecate in the open every morning.

The fact that Rohit Vaas still has two separate defecation grounds for men and women demonstrates that the benefits of a 10.9mn rupee (about $168,800; £126,700) fund allocated for building toilets in rural areas have not reached parts of Mr Modi’s own village.

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Daksha Ben, 30, complained that the sewage gutters in the area were always open.

“Small children as well as our young girls also have to go to the ground to defecate. We don’t have houses to live in. We were neither given any houses nor did anyone come to ask about the toilets,” she told the BBC.

Nirmala Ben added that Mr Modi’s government had not fulfilled the promises they had made to the residents. “We were promised that we would get roofs over our heads and toilets. But we got neither.”

Mr Modi visited his hometown on 8 October for the first time since he came to power in the summer of 2014. “Now since elections are here, he has finally remembered us and his old hometown. Otherwise no-one came to listen to us and hear our problems.”

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Women in the town don’t think Mr Modi’s government has lived up to the promises

Residents say around 500 homes in this municipality of 30,000 do not have access to toilets. Many of them are owned by Dalits and other lower-caste people.

As I made my way past open sewage lines, choked gutters and broken roads, I met women washing clothes in front of their homes.

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The Indian government recently announced a fund of 5.5bn rupees to develop Vadnagar as a historical tourist place, equipped with modern medical and technological facilities.

But these announcements have made little difference to the life of Mani Ben, 70, who walked towards me holding an old rusted red tin box that she said she would fill with water and take with her every morning while going to defecate in the fields.

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All the sewage gutters in the village are left open

Many women had no idea about the government schemes in Vadnagar. Many said they were still waiting for the construction of concrete functional toilets in their own homes.

When I asked them about the message that they would like to give to the prime minister, they all demanded construction of toilets.

It is the biggest issue in the elections, they insisted.

“It’s disrespectful and humiliating for us to defecate in the open,” one of them said.



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