With one broom in hand, we all vowed to keep our surroundings and our city clean, two years post the vow, we are conflicted with the ugly truth of our intention. According to World Health Organisation data, more than 140,000 children in India die from diarrhea each year before they reach the age of five. About 40% of children in the country are stunted. The stubbornly high maternal mortality rate is also linked to childbirths in environments contaminated by open defecation. Sepsis caused when the body cannot cope with severe infection occurs during childbirth when women have to deliver babies in unhygienic conditions and without access to clean water.
Our country is still the most openly defecated country, when we swore to line up the roads with plants, the majority decided otherwise. Our roads are still laden with the revolting story of defecation, dirt and spit marks. With Swachch Bharat Abhiyan going in its full swing, we are still faraway from reaching a stature where the area doesn’t stink of stale urine or the disposed garbage, or the sewers honouring us with its filthy smell.
It’s no secret that India’s many health crises are triggered or augmented by this severe lack of sanitation. Also, such lack of premises for defecation hinders the safety of women, who has to travel miles to defecate.
The campaign’s goal is to end open defecation in India by the year 2019. In order to do this, the government will have to build toilets in about 99 million rural households in the next four years. The government has also announced that the target of 100% access to separate toilets for girls and boys at schools should be achieved in the defined term. The initiative promises hope but is far from delivering it.
With the acute shortage of water the country is facing, the trial to provide toilets multiply by many folds. The focus has to be not only on the building of toilets but also on the design of the toilets that assumes more significance. Due to water scarcity, technological solutions will have to focus on designing toilets that can be sustained without access to water.
Poverty and lack of infrastructure also play its role in lack of sanitation in our country besides the construction of it. Also, the challenge lies in social transition for defecation. Many people from the rural population still unabashedly indulge in open defecation, on roads, near railway tracks and so on. There has to be social awareness among them that highlights the issues of such an act, and how these acts becomes the on-base ground for many contagious and deadly diseases.
One cannot deny the existence of social-cultural reasoning behind the poor sanitary conditions in the country. A place where ‘untouchability’ still roars at large even in modern times, and a place where high-caste people forbid the people from lower-caste to share the resources, the hope to end sanitation woes seems like a far-stretched dream. One needs to overcomes the apprehensions that still hangs over the head of the people, neatly wrapped under the veil of ‘superstition and justifiable prejudices’.
The need for the conscious of a person and their common sense to be awaken is required, and so are the visible actions of the words promised by our political leaders.