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A unique gift that cemented Hindu-Muslim fraternal bond in a MP village

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Mukesh Pandey

Harda: It is a heartwarming story in many ways. A unique gift from a government employee to a underprivileged woman in a Madhya Pradesh village has scripted and cemented a strong fraternal bond that overcomes religious divide.

Last year, under the ‘Brother number 1’ initiative of Harda district administration towards achieving open defecation free (ODF) status on occasion of Raksha Bandhan, many people’s representatives, government officials/employees and individual citizens decided to gift a toilet to selected women by considering them as sisters.

Among such ‘brothers’ was panchayat secretary Ramdas Gaur of Uda Panchayat who decided to gift toilet to 60-year-old Shahida Bii, a below poverty line (BPL) resident of the village. And this gesture initiated and cemented a strong fraternal bond between the Hindu brother and Muslim sister.

So much so that now Ramdas has become another member of the family who has a special place of respect. The two married children of Shahida (living separately) call Ramdas ‘Mama’ and seek his advice on many domestic issues.

Shahida’s husband Mangu Khan treats him like real brother-in-law and shares problems and joys with him.

“Along with the toilet, that has saved my family from shame of open defecation I have got a sensitive and kind brother now. I would be tying Rakhi to him on upcoming Rakshabandhan day (August 18),” Shahida told

Shahida’s daughter Rukhsana says that never has the family received such an important gift for anyone and thus ‘Mama’ is very special to them.

Gaur says that he felt immense happiness and satisfaction at having provided way to health and safety to a family in his village. “The Hindu-Muslim thing is just coincidental,” he says.


This is one of the many examples in Harda district that has helped it to achieve open defecation free district status at rural level. Officially, the district would be granted the status on August 15 – Independence Day.

At least 500 toilets were gifted to underprivileged women under the ‘brother number 1’ scheme of the district under Operation Mallyuddh. The initiative had got praise from Prime Minister Narendra Modi in one of his ‘Man ki Bat’ programmes.

Among the prominent donors under the initiative are ex-divisional commissioner of Narmadapuram division VK Batham, tehsildar Micheal Suleman Ekka, additional superintendent of police Kiranlata Kerketta, sub-divisional officer of police Vinod Shrivastava, PWD executive engineer SK Barele, district education officer Bhawna Dubey, panchayat representative Funda Bai, police officials Maya Singh, Kanchan Thakur, Shilpa Sharma and others.

The youngest donor is 8-year-old Manomay Shukla, son of district resource coordination (Samagra Swachchta Abhiyan) Rajnish Shukla.

District collector Srikanth Banoth said that the gift of a Hindu brother to a Muslim sister is an example of communal harmony and mascot for ODF campaign in the district. At least 500 toilets have been gifted under 'brother number 1' initiative.

"PM Modi's praise inspired us and after rural ODF status, we would be concentrating on urban areas. Plans are being made to monitor the ODF panchayats to prevent relapse," he told