Hygiene, Sanitation and Health Care: A personal issue

It was Law College Road in Pune, one of the central areas filled with students strolling down to their colleges, people residing in their well structured bungalows and societies. It’s normally a busy locality with some of the main educational institutes adorning it, raising it to a place where many of the upper middle class citizens would prefer to stay. But on Monday this week, it was flooded with muddy water. Flooded to an extent that the whole road was jammed and the traffic had to be routed to another road. The rickshaws were stuck and it was a sight reminiscent of the Mumbai floods. I was shocked to see this on a perfectly sunny, bright day. It almost killed me to see so much of water being wasted. When I enquired, I was informed that it was because of a damaged pipeline.


They famously say that the Third World War on earth will be on water. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise but neither is it a very welcome surprise. We talk about the fast growing economy, the high GDP growth rate, the availability of commodities which signify modernity, progress and advancement. But we tend to forget the persistent unavailability of basic needs like electricity, water and food in many a communities and regions of this country.


Pollution, famines, drought, malnutrition, bad harvests are common after effects of the water crisis. But one that grapples all us and is apparent but still so disregarded, is the improper sanitation and the common unhygienic ways of water usage. Yes, it affects us too, the urban public. When was the last time you found a suitable clean public restroom to go to? We always have to resort to the better restaurants and the expensively maintained malls and to add to that we also unknowingly pay for their maintenance. This is how it bothers us, the “janata” which is used to and believes in abiding to the clean ways. What about the people living in slums, in crowded “chawls” sharing common bathrooms? We can’t even imagine their living conditions. Even thinking about it gives you the jitters. Maintaining public hygiene seems to be the end priority of any public administration or municipal corporation agenda. Looking at the way garbage disposal in the city is handled; we can all predict how well the local drainage system in the smaller towns and villages is taken through. Children plagued with jaundice, malnutrition, cholera; infant and maternal mortality rate peaking and the high possibilities of falling prey to other communicable diseases, all of these are the regular perils. And the neglect of the cause of them is even more astounding than their existence!


According to the Census Reports in 2001, a measly 22 percent of the rural households have a proper sanitation facility. Around 24 percent have no access to toilets and bathroom and thus, are bound to use the natural surroundings. The government schools are not provided with suitable toilets. With the various programs the government has launched to eradicate literacy, provide electricity, minimize poverty and raise the living conditions of people, why hasn’t the government laid a thrust on proper sanitation, one of the most basic human requirements and one of the major reasons for the prevalence of so many ills. Let alone recycling of garbage, it doesn’t even get picked up by the municipality truck for days from our beloved locality. Is it such a trifling issue?


You will agree its not. The government has definitely initiated steps in its direction. The Total Sanitation Campaign in 1999 and the Central Rural Sanitation Program in 1986 was launched by the Ministry of Rural Development. The government had also introduced Nirmal Gram Puraskar in October 2003 which was given to the districts, Gram Panchayats and localities which achieved 100% sanitation and were relatively free from unclean environment. These ventures brought considerable but less than satisfactory success in the intended front. A lot of improvement needs to be boosted on a rural as well as urban level. The government can set aside a certain amount from the Budget to build proper toilets and bathrooms in the rural areas and also suitable public restrooms in every major locality of the city. The local administration and municipality can be given charge and asked to co-operate with the venture by appointing cleaners to clean them regularly and also pay them appropriate wages. The government can also indulge in propagating and advancing the importance of proper sanitation through advertisement and national campaigns. With the help of local authorities, it can also hold activities and talks to educate people about the hazards of unhygienic living conditions and proper usage of clean water and maintaining clean surroundings. They can also introduce this through schools and by informing children from the lower classes. Proper cleaning of drainage pipes and water tanks is also essential.


We, as informed citizens, also have a responsibility in this matter. The locality we proudly call ours, should also be looked after by us. If we do see the garbage cans over flowing or the nearby public restroom unclean, we can immediately inform the nearby municipal corporation office about it. There are a lot of instances where people from the same locality have got together to have cleanliness drives. Keeping in mind these measures at the micro level something needs to be done on a national level to bring about a massive and vital change.


This problem needs to be highlighted, propelled at a faster rate and on a more significant level. With proper measures taken and with enough limelight, we could definitely eliminate this major ill from our everyday life. It’s not a national, state or a local issue, it’s a personal issue. How about aspiring for a day when we wouldn’t have to cringe and think twice about using that public restroom?

Sakhi Deshpande

[Image source:http://knowledge.allianz.com/nopi_downloads/images/sanitation.jpg]