In so far as ‘alaya’ goes, let me get it straight that I prefer neither. As opposed to some of my friends (also brother) who prefer the shauch to the deva, just because they get more peace and silence in the former, I would much rather choose the ‘bhojan’ wala alaya. But, and there’s a big lota but there, having to commute daily through what is ‘inauspiciously’ known as the world’s biggest slum – The Dharavi, I need to opine and opine in the open. Much as what the teeming junta near the Dharavi T-junction does, everyday, day in and day out. As my taxi weaves its way through that road with the aroma that could put an elephant to sleep, I grapple with trying to segregate the varied sources of the stench – now that I am more than used to the burning-waste. Fecal-remains, mangrove-cluster and of course the vehicular-smoke smell. If you ask me therefore, to pick a side, I would side with our ‘Bharat Mata ka Sher’ . For a change though, this sher stands in the same side as Jai Shri Ram Ramesh (the chronology aside). What irony! It took the toilet to bring these disparate individuals together. Poopy groovy sweet!
Doling out statistics would be tiresome since all of you have been witness, at some point or the other, to men pulling down their pants in a jiffy and doing what is commonly referred to as ‘mooning’. But suffice it to say that about 60% of these hippy ‘mooning’ crowd reside in India (that translates to about 600 million people!). Now I can very easily skim off the top 40% for they know no better and they also do lack in-organic (Monsanto alert) fertilizers for their farming appetite. And therefore, ‘ghar-ki-kheti’ is an add-on to the veritable turds that their cattle-rearing produces. In any case, per hectare productivity in India is so low that they should actually be incentivized for doing so. The rest of the 20% (random allocations mind you) though are what I refer to as the indulgent folks in downtown who prefer their flourishing in the open. For them, the world is a ‘Firta Shauchalaya’ and they can, given the mauka, zip down right up the 7 Racecourse alley given the first such chance. As a comment in the Nature magazine puts it – ‘Rapidly modernizing India is drowning in its own excreta’.
Actually, for once, I would approve a flagship government-sponsored , game-changing, powerful bill that provides Right to Toilet for everyone. Call it the Rahul Gandhi National Urban Toiletification Scheme (N.U.T.S) if you want, or the Sonia Gandhi Bharat Shauchalaya Nirman Yojana (S.G.B.S.N.Y) if that’s what you prefer. Using the Aadhar identity, one can then collect exhaustive information on the ablutionary habits of us Indians. Imagine the field day that analysts would have analyzing and interpreting the data to understand the eating habits and the pooping patterns! The scatologists would be the toast of the town with research books tumbling out of the press like field worms! But seriously, a government’s mandate is to address the ineptitudes of a society though awareness campaigns and focused programs. I say we go from forced sterilization to forced sanitization! From one Gandhi to another. Some things change, other things remain the same.
According to research (thank god for them), infants born near places where open-defecation is the norm have a higher likelihood of being stunted and developing diarrhoea (Duh!). More than 1500 kids under the age of 5 die in India daily(!) because of diarrhoea arising out of inadequate sanitation facility. If that was not all, girls drop out of schools because of lack of sanitation facilities. It would not be far-fetched to say that sanitation is primarily a women’s issue knowing that they are the ones affected the most. Go through this blog (datastories.in) which tells its data-centric story through maps. They have a Toilet Map of India (http://datastories.in/blog/2013/09/09/a-toilet-map-of-india-2/) as well where you can pin-point locations with the best and the worst sanitation infrastructure. As the 2011 census states, more than half the population in India now own a cell-phone but do not have a toilet. A fact I can very easily second given I see many mooning around with their cellphones in their palms!
Whoever was into it first – Modi or Ramesh, the issue is extremely important to bring to light and for once, I applaud them two distinguished personalities for doing so. As an article in The Hindu says, let’s roll out a Toilet Meter to see which constituencies performed the best and worst in providing toilets to its voters. We shall debate if the WC issue is to be fought sitting down or standing up with our chests drawn. It might draw constipation and motions, but would not be a push in vain.