India’s Shameful Story: Defecating In The Open

indian toilet

Thank you Jason Gale (of Bloomberg) for your important story “India Failing to Control Open Defecation Blunts Nation’s Growth”. India has enough strength to withstand the periodical attacks by terrorists. But its Achilles heel could very well be the lack of proper sewerage facilities/hygiene in overcrowded cities and small towns.

Ironically, in the Indian subcontinent, the cradle of over 5000-year-old Indus Valley Civilization, archaeological findings reveal that while planning their cities, the old inhabitants ensured the best of sewerage facilities and hygiene.

This state of affairs (maybe in a somewhat primitive form) continued right up to the end of the colonial era in 1947. Freedom was welcome…but India also witnessed the collapse of controlled town and country planning. As the power started accumulating at the federal headquarters in Delhi, and the capital cities of the States, the independence and the majesty of small towns and villages was undermined.

It is true that the delightful diversity of the country and the complex nature of running India (which Prof John Kenneth Galbraith once famously described as a “functioning anarchy”) presents numerous challenges.

Reports Jason Gale: “In the shadow of its new suburbs, torrid growth and 300- ­million-plus-strong middle class, India is struggling with a sanitation emergency. Everyone in Indian cities is at risk of consuming human feces, if they’re not already, the Ministry of Urban Development concluded in September.

“Sanitation and hygiene-related issues may have…impact on India’s $1.2 trillion economy, says Guy Hutton, a senior water and sanitation economist with the program in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Snarled transportation and unreliable power further damp the nation’s growth. Companies that locate in India pay hardship wages and ensconce employees in self- sufficient compounds.

“The toll on human health is grim. Every day, 1,000 children younger than 5 years old die in India from diarrhea, hepatitis- causing pathogens and other sanitation-related diseases, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“For girls, the crisis is especially acute: Many drop out of school once they reach puberty because of inadequate lavatories, depriving the country of a generation of possible leaders.

“ ‘India cannot reach its full economic potential unless they do something about this sanitation crisis,’ says Clarissa Brocklehurst, Unicef’s New York-based chief of water, sanitation and hygiene, who worked in New Delhi from 1999 to 2001.

“India’s gated office parks with swimming pools and food courts and enclaves such as the Aralias in Gurgaon, outside New Delhi, which features 6,000-square-foot (557-square-meter) condominiums, mask a breakdown of the most basic and symbolic human need — hygiene.” More here…

And here…

Meanwhile Sikkim, the second smallest state of India, was recently declared a ‘Nirmal State’ for being completely free of open defecation. It was honoured with a gold medal by Indian President Pratibha Patil for setting an example for others states to follow.

Although it is India’s least populous state, Sikkim’s achievement is being hailed as a major step forward in a country [where] over half-a-billion Indians do not have a toilet. Indeed, the country needs to build 78 new toilets every minute over the next four years to meet the government’s ambitious sanitation target under the Nirmal Gram Yojana or Total Sanitation Campaign .

More here…

Author: SWARAAJ CHAUHAN, International Columnist

Swaraaj Chauhan describes his two-decade-long stint as a full-time journalist as eventful, purposeful, and full of joy and excitement. In 1993 he could foresee a different work culture appearing on the horizon, and decided to devote full time to teaching journalism (also, partly, with a desire to give back to the community from where he had enriched himself so much.) Alongside, he worked for about a year in 1993 for the US State Department's SPAN magazine, a nearly five-decade-old art and culture monthly magazine promoting US-India relations. It gave him an excellent opportunity to learn about things American, plus the pleasure of playing tennis in the lavish American embassy compound in the heart of New Delhi. In !995 he joined WWF-India as a full-time media and environment education consultant and worked there for five years travelling a great deal, including to Husum in Germany as a part of the international team to formulate WWF's Eco-tourism policy. He taught journalism to honors students in a college affiliated to the University of Delhi, as also at the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication where he lectured on "Development Journalism" to mid-career journalists/Information officers from the SAARC, African, East European and Latin American countries, for eight years. In 2004 the BBC World Service Trust (BBC WST) selected him as a Trainer/Mentor for India under a European Union project. In 2008/09 He completed another European Union-funded project for the BBC WST related to Disaster Management and media coverage in two eastern States in India --- West Bengal and Orissa. Last year, he spent a couple of months in Australia and enjoyed trekking, and also taught for a while at the University of South Australia. Recently, he was appointed as a Member of the Board of Studies at Chitkara University in Chandigarh, a beautiful city in North India designed by the famous Swiss/French architect Le Corbusier. He also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students there. He loves trekking, especially in the hills, and never misses an opportunity to play a game of tennis. The Western and Indian classical music are always within his reach for instant relaxation. And last, but not least, is his firm belief in the power of the positive thought to heal oneself and others.

  • Jim_Satterfield

    In the computer strategy game Civilization you cannot have medicine and hospitals until after the concept of sanitation is discovered. I always thought this was one of the best of the little things that made this game great. For India to truly achieve some of its goals a vast fortune needs to be spent on infrastructure.