ACCORDING to an international NGO, Water-Aid, India occupies the second place on the list of the world'sworst places for sanitation. China ranks number one, as the country with the worst sanitation condition and on the status of the world'stoilets.
The United Nations estimates there are some 2.6 billion people, all over the world, without access to basic sanitation. Over half of them live in India and China. In our country, there are 700 million people who do not have access to safe and hygienic toilets.
Regrettably, none of our cities, with a population of more than one million get water supply for more than a few hours per day and sometimes none at all. In many places water fights are common, as people struggle to collect a few buckets of water from an erratic water supply.
A British journal says that if not properly flushed, one gram of human faeces can contain 10,000,000 viruses, 1,000,000 bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs. According to it, the water-related diseases, caused by lack of adequate sanitation, are the second-biggest killer of children today.
In the absence of any facilities, public urination and defecation are almost inevitable. You have to search for public convenience in the public places. In the absence of any facilities or infrastructure, people are compelled to do the thing out in the open. It is a hard reality that while even the poorest of people want to dress up well, they leave the toilets filthy, stinking and unusable for the next user.
Diarrhoeal diseases like dysentery kill 5,000 children everyday? that'sfive times the number dying from HIV/AIDS. At any given time half the hospital beds in the developing world are occupied by patients suffering from such diseases.
The real problem is that we have been conditioned not to talk about toilet and sanitation matters. We have had, all over, movements for women'sliberation, sex revolution, workers? revolution, homosexuality, or same sex marriages. We talk and discuss everything under the sun except sanitation and matters relating to the toilet, which is an unwritten taboo. If we want to develop hygiene and sanitation, we must talk about it. Despite outlays provided there are equally huge leakages in official spending in sanitation, monitoring of progress of projects and co-ordination in different government agencies. In fact laws on sanitation and public hygiene exist only on paper. Even in the national capital you have to search for a public convenience, forget about facilities. For slums or poor localities, the result is that any open area with a modicum of bushes and trees and sometimes even without the same becomes an open air latrine. Forget about individual latrines there are no community toilets. Even where they exist are shoddily maintained without any water supply or cleanliness. In fact some of them are in worst condition and give the impression of not having been cleaned for years together.
There is double discrimination in this matter against women. According to a report submitted by a committee constituted by the Delhi High Court in December 2006 there are 3,192 urinals in Delhi and out of these only 132 (4 per cent) are for women.
Many of us feel fed up with dirt and filth despite MCD in the capital of the country spending Rs. 400 crore on the sanitation work force which is about 60,000 strong. Even according to MCD sources corruption and absenteeism is chronic and the government-scaled sanitation employees drawing thousands of rupees (roughly Rs. 6,000 to 8,000 a month) hire others for doing their job for Rs 1500 to Rs. 2000. They pocket the rest in collusion with some of their supervisors.
Still there are others who pay the officials for marking their proxy attendance and pocket the salary without moving out of the houses. The MCD had received Rs 166 crore loan from Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) to construct community toilet complexes (CTCs) in Delhi to dis?courage people defecating in the open and polluting the river.
An independent Japanese firm, which surveyed 959 toilet complexes constructed by the MCD under the Yamuna Action Plan-1, has found their condition ?unsatisfactory?. As many as 350 toilets were found closed.
Water is basic and most essential for hygiene and cleanliness and in its absence or in the absence of adequate quantity and quality, there is no way that we should not be titled the second most unhygienic and dirtiest country in the world. This is because unscrupulousness, insensitivity and apathy towards public responsibility has mushroomed. It has been augmented by corruption, wherein everybody wants his cut even for construction of toilets. The government is planning to spend Rs 20,18,709 crore in the eleventh Plan and Rs. 40,55,235 crore in the twelfth Plan, for the infrastructure in the country. Why not include sanitation and hygiene as a part of the infrastructure which are meant to better the lives of the people? Unfortunately there is not even sufficient emphasis on hygiene and sanitation in our own educational institutions or in the curriculum. Even our leaders are apathetic to this problem. No debate on sanitation or hygiene has ever been done in any State Assembly or Parliament. Must we live in filth and dirt, when it lies in our own power to put the matters right? A few things the government can do and a few things, we can do as individuals. Why do not we make a beginning in keeping at least the area in front of our places clean and teach hygiene and the need of cleanliness to our children? Will the government please wake up and do something, before our country becomes unliveable from the sanitation and hygienic point of view?
(The writer is IPS (Retd.) and former Director, CBI. He can be contacted at 123-124, Nav Sansad Vihar, CGHS,
Sector 22, Plot Number 4, Dwarka,
New Delhi-110 075. Email; [email protected]) Water is basic and most essential for hygiene and cleanliness and in its absence, or in the absence of adequate quantity and quality, there is no way that we should not be titled the second most unhygienic and dirtiest country in the world.