Last week, an IAS officer in Bihar flew into a rage when a villager interrupted his speech on building toilets and asked for an advance to build one in his house. District magistrate Kanwal Tanuj, possibly under the impression that the villager was dodging the proposal of building a toilet, angrily told him that he should sell his wife off if he can't build a toilet for her. He later tried to justify his insensitive comment by emphasising he was only worried about women's safety, and hence was insisting that everyone must build toilets in their homes.
After breaking the story, The Telegraph followed up on it by tracking down the man at the receiving end of the district magistrate's ire. In an ironic twist, it was revealed that the man is a widower and lost his wife 20 years ago.
The man identified himself as Saukina and said he is about '40 years old'. He told The Telegraph correspondent that he married his wife Parvati Devi when he was just 15 years old. Five years later, one day, Parvati complained of severe pain in her stomach. Before she could be taken to a hospital, she died.
However, this article lays bare the primary problem with Tanuj's misguided anger and the loopholes in government policies. Saukina is pictured in front of a tenement which is barely even a room. The report identifies it as his hut -- and it is basically held together with bamboos, plastic, gunny bags and some bricks. The man told TT that he earned a living by manual scavenging and lived in the hut with his old mother.
It can be assumed -- at least from the looks of his home -- that he was not trying to mislead the DM when he said that he didn't have money to build the toilet. If a man has Rs 12,000 at his disposal, he'd probably try to first build a roof above his head more stable than the one pictured in the report.
Read the full Telegraph report here.