She was a runaway bride, but she won an award of Rs.5 lakh for revolting against the lack of toilet at her in-laws' place.
Sulabh International, an India-based NGO for environmental sanitation, announced the cash award for newly-wed Anita Bai of a Madhya Pradesh tribal village, describing her as a "revolutionary of a different kind". Anita Bai, according to Sulabh, ran away from her in-laws' place on the first night of her wedding to press the issue of lack of toilet there.
Acknowledging her tough stand for insisting on cleanliness and hygiene, Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International said Anita Bai would be given Rs.5 lakh Sanitation Award. According to Pathak, Anita 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, causing serious diseases," said Pathak. Anita Bai, who hails from Chichouli village in Betul district, returned to her father's place, despite repeated assurances by her in-laws and husband to provide a toilet.
"She came back 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," said Pathak. Pathak said this case would give a "fillip to his ongoing Sulabh movement in the country", and that Anita Bai will be honoured in an award ceremony in New Delhi in April.
According to Pathak, lack of proper sanitation conditions in most of rural areas in India was still a grave problem, particularly for women. "Women suffer the most from this situation. They suffer silently and patiently wait for darkness for the sake of privacy while attending to the call of nature. They go before sunrise or after nightfall so that they are not seen," Pathak said. "The chronic shortage of proper plumbing is ironic in a country that has more mobile phones than toilets," Pathak pointed out. Sulabh has so far built toilets for 10 million people in India.