Monday, May 3, 2010


India is a favorite whipping boy when it comes to comparing its stature in the comity of nations, with China always scoring over it. While criticism, if based on logic and reality, must be taken in right spirit, those made with ulterior motives deserve condemnation. Similarly defending the existing situation with lame excuses for inefficiency, backwardness, poverty, corruption, malnutrition etc also cannot be condoned. Some time back there was an international report indicting India for the tremendous achievements in the field of wireless telephony while ignoring the basic need of toilet facilities to some of its impoverished population. The incongruity of such "off the cuff" remarks can be best understood when the facts are checked.

"One wonders why multilateral bodies like the UN come out with these incongruous factoids when it relates to the Third World only. This statistics must be true for the developed world also. You do not need common sense to ascertain the veracity of this since in a family unit of four there could at the most be four mobile phones while there could be only two toilets. So the question is why India should be any different. However, there are many who take such reports in our country as the ultimate truth and agonise on how backward we are or how uncivilised we are. While in actual fact we may not be. Thus in rural India people defecate in the open, mostly in their own fields, which ensures a cleaner, simpler and cheaper way to not allow pollution to build up. However, when we come to the urban areas where slums proliferated the same practice is not healthy and that is where the public toilets are being implemented as we see in cities like Mumbai. Also our hygiene habits are probably the best in world since we wash up after we defecate and not use toilet paper which may not clean well. Similarly, after we blow our nose we do not put the offending mucous polluted tissue or handkerchief in our pockets as most of the Westerners do. Thus in most things what we do and how we do is sometimes much better than what the West does. Therefore let us not look down upon ourselves or denigrate our people and their habits".

The above rebuttal should not detract from the reality that a substantial number of more than half a million villages in the country does not have protected toilets in majority of the houses with open defalcation the established practice. Hundreds of years of traditional practice cannot be expected to change in short time and universal protected toileting habit can be inculcated only through universal education. Many public and voluntary agencies are doing yeomen work in this area and when the recently enacted "Right to Education Act" implemented earnestly, some progress can be expected in this front.


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