Odisha Man Quarantines in a Swachh Bharat Toilet: Covid-19 Has Stripped India’s Poor of Dignity


Odisha Man Quarantines in a Swachh Bharat Toilet: Covid-19 Has Stripped India’s Poor of Dignity

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

The coronavirus pandemic has left a large part of this country in quarantine for months. While most of us have been struggling through this phase of self-isolation, even from the comfort of our own homes, for one Odisha man, this period has been particularly tough.

A 28-year-old man who was sent back to his home state Odisha from Tamil Nadu, where he was working, had to quarantine inside a newly built toilet, after his request for extension of stay in his institutional quarantine was rejected.

According to reports, Manas Patra spent one week in the quarantine home before he was asked to leave, and spend another week in isolation at his own home.

However, since he didn’t have enough space in his house in Jamugaon village, he asked that he be allowed to stay back, a request that was refused.

The state government has mandated that those returning home from other states must undergo seven days’ institutional quarantine, after which asymptomatic persons will be discharged to undergo home quarantine for a further period of seven days.

With no other alternative, and six at-risk family members in his home, Patra decided to move into a toilet close to his home. He spent seven days from June 9 to 15 in the 6×8 toilet that was recently built under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

The sarpanch of his village was quoted as saying that Patra was discharged from the government-run institution because he was asymptomatic but said that an investigation will be carried out into why his request to stay on was refused.

Earlier in May, disputed reports had indicated that another migrant labourer couple in Madhya Pradesh were made to quarantine in a toilet in Guna district.

The pandemic has put a lot of pressure on authorities to ensure that suspected patients have the space to quarantine, as well as access to healthcare. As cases continue to rise, the least that can be done is ensure that no one has to spend this time in a toilet.