Sita Arya, 34, who is part of the farmers' protest at the Ghazipur border, wakes up at 4 am and walks nearly two kilometres to use a public lavatory. This has been her routine for the past few days as there are no clean facilities available at the demonstration site. "If we use toilets at the protest site, if not of the coronavirus, we will die due to the unhygienic conditions of the toilets," Sita, who hails from Amroha in Uttar Pradesh, said, citing instances where women were forced to defecate in the open.
Sita, who is herself a farmer, is among 50 other women from various parts of UP who have been camping at the border for the last five days along with their male counterparts as part of the protest against the Centre's new farm laws. The uncleaned temporary toilets have forced the protesting women to either use empty plots or agriculture fields nearby. The women protestors complained that even though temporary toilets have been set up by the authorities at the border, none of them can be used as they are in a very unhygienic condition and stink because there is no facility to clean them after usage. This has compelled Sita to wake up early morning daily just to use a toilet.
She along with two other women walk around two kilometres from the protest site and pay Rs five to use the toilet and Rs 10 to take a bath there. The protesting woman said unhygienic toilets and defecating in the open are not the only problems, their safety is also a big concern. They are compelled to spend sleepless night under the flyover, another woman protester said. "Our safety is in our hands," said the women, who take turns to sleep in the night. They said at least three women stay awake all night to ensure that the group of women can sleep in peace. "We take turns to sleep at night. We have to look out for our own safety. Since we are under the open, we need to stay extra vigilant especially at night because any outsider can enter the area. "So we take turns to sleep," said Seema, another protestor, who has left her two young children back home at her village to participate in the protest.
Forty-year-old Jayanti, who along with her husband came from Shahjahanpur district said, "We will continue to protest here until our demands our met. We don't have proper sanitization facilities, lack hygienic toilets, no space to change clothes but still we are ready to fight our battle." Sita said the woman have no other option than walking through the empty road early morning to use the toilet. She said "Are we even left with any option? I sit for 'havan' here and without taking a bath, I cannot perform the rituals. "We don't have bathing facilities and the temporary toilets set up here are so unhygienic that once used, it cannot be used again because it is not being cleaned on a regular basis." Recalling an incident where a woman had to defecate in an empty plot due to uncleaned toilets, Sita said "Yesterday afternoon, one of our women wanted to go to the toilet. But when she went to the jungle area behind, a man came there and she had to run from there. This is how unsafe it is for women and then our prime minister has given the call of 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao'."