A top government officer in Bihar has been accused of going too far while urging people to install toilets, at a public meeting on Sunday. “Sell your wife,” Kanwal Tanuj, the District Magistrate of Aurangabad, snapped when a villager said he was too poor to build a toilet.

Mr Tanuj was on a drive to promote Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Swacch Bharat” (Clean India) campaign when he made the comment.

Speaking at a village against open defecation, he began by linking toilets with the dignity of women. “It costs 12,000 to build a toilet. Raise your hands and tell me… whose wife is worth less than 12,000?”

A voice piped up from the gathering: “I don’t have money to build a toilet.”

Mr Tanuj, apparently irritated, bit back, “I will talk to you. If that is the case then sell your wife. If that is your mentality then go and auction the dignity of your home.” He also commented that people angled for advance payment under a government scheme for toilets and wasted the money.

The officer was talking about the “Ghar ka Samman” scheme, in which the state’s Nitish Kumar government grants an aid of Rs. 12,000 to people who want to build toilets.

While many say the officer’s outburst should not detract from the fact that his intentions were good, there has been sharp criticism from political parties.

“If you are a IAS officer, it does not mean that you can say anything,” said Samajwadi Party’s Juhi Singh.

Rajeev Ranjan of Bihar’s ruling Janata Dal (United) said: “(the officer) has a good image but somewhere his words were not right and he has not able to convey what he wanted to say.”

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