Tuesday 18 November 2014

Open defecation and disease, Indian' bane and a thorn in the road to progress

Open defecation and disease, Indian' bane and a thorn in the road to progress

Babli is playing with her friends. As any young girl her age would do, she is running around, laughing, enjoying herself without another care in the world. Once the games are over, she feels a need to go relieve herself. And relieving herself is another game for her. A game of hiding to ensure people do not see her. A game, of hide and seek, where she is hiding from diseases and illnesses. Because, Babli, like many other in her village and around the country, does not have access to a toilet.
Open defecation and disease, Indian' bane and a thorn in the road to progress

Real world

Lack of proper sanitation and hygiene is a very grave reality here in our country. It has been widely reported by newspapers and not-for-profit organizations that there are about a billion people in the world today that do not have any access to a toilet. Most of this gruesome figure i.e. 6oo million of those, live in India. Which means a population, the size of entire Europe, are putting themselves under a huge risk by defecating in the open.

In India, about 72% households do not have a toilet inside their homes. At least a few of these people have community toilets. It may not be the best solution, but it is still better than nothing. This figure still leaves around 130 million people who have no other option but to relieve themselves in the open. Most newspapers and articles report the story of open defecation coming from rural India. But anyone using the railway network even in a metropolitan city of Mumbai can testify the large number of people in the city who are seen sitting and openly defecating in the open. This is an insult both to the rail passenger and the victim of poverty, but it is more of an insult to the idea called India. 

Let's take a minute to consider the risks that face our very little Babli. She may consider it an everyday work, but the risks that millions like her undertake every single day are considerable.

First, the health perspective. In a country like India, with its population ever on the rise, open spaces are shrinking. Bar a few areas, where neighbouring houses are far and wide, the open area isn't very far from the village. The feces lie in the open, attracting germs, bacteria, fungi and lots of insects. It is not always possible to keep it away from people, fields and the hands of children like Babli. What happens if Babli happens to come into contact with such a disease factory one fine day ? You can imagine the diseases she can contract. With villages lacking sanitation, do you believe they will have proper medical facilities ? No!

What if the disease she contacts turns out to be contagious ? Such a situation will not only put her, but her father, mother, sibling and the entire village as whole in danger. Who's responsible for such a calamity taking place ?  This is probably one of the reasons why smallest of diseases end up being a pandemic in India.

Hundreds of thousands of people die, from unhygienic conditions each year, especially in  northern India, which has most of the open defecation . Feces in groundwater spread diseases such as encephalitis, an annual post-monsoon scourge in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Diarrhoea kills a huge number of children every year in India as per recently carried out research. Underweight mothers produce stunted babies prone to sickness who may fail to develop to their full cognitive potential. Dean Spears, a Delhi-based economist, says the costs of all this, in incomes and taxes forfeited, are far greater than the price of fixing it.

The second parameter, safety. With the number of atrocities reported- especially against women and children- no safety measure can be too great. Recently, there was a case burning across tabloids in the country. Two sisters, stepped out of their houses to defecate, were kidnapped by men in the area, brutally raped and hanged from a tree for all to see. I do not need to mention the name of the case for you to invoke the harsh memories. While we admit, having indoor toilets will not reduce such cases significantly- that has to be done by educating an entire generation. But at the very least, we can reduce the opportunities such deranged men have to exploit defenseless women.

“I built the toilet for my youngest daughter-in-law not to feel shame. But I go to the fields – it’s much healthier going there,” Ramavatar, a marginal farmer in Uttar Pradesh’s Fatehpur district, told The Hindu earlier this summer. Such “personal preference” is overwhelmingly the most common reason for not using toilets despite access. Another factor that plays havoc with public sanitation.

Those of you who are regulars here, must be a little annoyed that we are writing about such a topic. But do we consider the fact that we capable people are ignoring the trials of so many people just because its a topic we would rather not talk about ? When Bill Gates started a drive to improve sanitation in Africa, most people scoffed at a billionaire mingling in toilets. Do you still feel the same now ? We hope we have changed the hearts of at least some of our readers today.

Hope the above narrative made a dent in the psyche of an Indian. You too can take part in this lovely initiative being implemented by Domex.  

About The Domex Toilet Academy

Domex, HUL’s flagship sanitation brand, currently runs the Domex Toilet Academy (DTA) programme. Domex Toilet Academy was launched on 19th November 2013. It aims to become a sustainable and long-term solution to provide sanitation that benefits the local community and helps stimulate the local economy. 

The Toilet Academy makes toilets accessible and affordable, while promoting the benefits of clean toilets & good hygiene. Their efforts have resulted in bringing the change in the villages of Maharashtra and Orissa and we aim to build 24000 toilets by 2015 in rural areas faced with the problem of open defecation.

How can you be a part of this initiative and making India proud

You can bring about the change in the lives of millions of kids, thereby showing your support for the Domex Initiative. All you need to do is “click” on the “Contribute Tab” on www.domex.in and Domex will contribute Rs.5 on your behalf to eradicate open defecation, thereby helping kids like Babli live a dignified life.

Just remember, you one click can change many a lives and decide the path India is going to take in the future.  All you have to do is open the picture and watch Babli go to her own toilet.  You can do it using arrow keys or mouse scroll. Your one click can help Domex build many more toilets for many more Bablis, Click here

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