Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh gave away the award to Anita Bai Narre, who had left her marital home on the second day of her wedding

Popularly know as the runaway bride, Anita Bai Narre was awarded Rs 5 lakh by Sulabh International, a NGO working for environmental sanitation, for revolting against the lack of toilet at her in-laws' place. The 24-year-old revolutionary, who hails from Chichouli village of tribal dominated Betul district in Madhya Pradesh, received the award by the hands of Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh at a function organised in the capital yesterday.

Having her way: Anita returned to her in-laws' place only when her
husband managed to construct a toilet within a week with the help of a
Gram Panchayat grant. Pic Rajeev Tyagi

Sharing her story with MiD DAY after being felicitated by the minister, Narre said, "When I reached my marital house, I realised that our house didn't have a toilet. Women had to wait till the dark, and walk for about a kilometer away from the house to answer nature's call. Even I did the same for a day, but I felt very odd and uncomfortable. That's when I decided that I won't stay there, come what may, and left for my village."
Narre added that she told her husband that she'd return back only after they got a toilet constructed in the house. "Initially they tried to convince me, but I didn't relent. Then they didn't force me to stay back and let me go," said Narre, who is a second year history student in a Bhimpur college.

When asked if she feared that her decision would lead her marriage into trouble, Narre, who had come to collect the award with her parents and husband, said, "Frankly speaking, it didn't strike me at all. However, after what I did, more than 80 per cent houses in my marital village have toilets now. Also, after my husband got a toilet constructed in the house and I returned, home, women from the village welcomed me as if I was some hero."

Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International said Narre acted "as an inspiration for others to follow" in the country, where more than half of its population still defecate in the open. "By revolting on the issue of non-availability of toilet, this rural woman has created a revolutionary action in India where more than 660 million people still defecate in the open," said Pathak.

-- With inputs from agencies