Not only poverty and malnutrition but where to defecate is also a problem in India as 53% Indian households (600 million people) defecate in open. The findings of a World Bank report say it all which was released on the eve of the first UN World Toilet Day. The report also states that cognitive thinking of children increases with the improved sanitation. So this means India’s future is suffering because we do not have enough toilets or latrines. Lack of proper sanitation facilities impacts the health, education and environment. Exposure to fecal germs also impacts the height of the children. Children who are exposed to fecal germs are shorter than the ones who are not. On an average, children in India are even shorter than children in Africa because we do not have proper sanitation facilities. Now where are we heading?
India is at number one as far as open defecation is concerned, making Indians more prone to water borne diseases. Because with open defecation ground water gets contaminated that is used for drinking and cleaning purposes. Basic health is determined by the number of factors such as personal hygiene, clean environment, safe and clean drinking water, nutritional intake and healthcare facilities. Again we lack this.
It is estimated that everyday approximately 100,000 tonnes of human excreta is deposited in the open. As per Unicef there are 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs in each gram of human excreta. It is also said that much of the malnutrition problem in India is the result of lack of proper sanitation facilities. Open defecation is really a shame to all our economic and technological progress.
It is not that problem is not understood and untouched. But again mismanagement plays its role. As per the records of the government, India has been constructing more than 3.5 million toilets a year making 9,589/day, 400/hour or seven toilets/minute. Earlier March 2012 was kept as a target to provide every Indian a toilet but now the target has shifted to March 2022.
The Total Sanitation Campaign or Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan is the main sanitation program run by the government to eradicate the issue by targeting the main affected rural area.
But why do people defecate in open? One reason is the lack of toilets. The other are – people just do not follow the habit of using toilets because these lack the required privacy and availability of water. Also people are not aware of the associated benefits with good sanitation. Almost all the sanitation programs first think of constructing toilet and then managing water supply. But one fruitful program started by a non-profit, Gram Vikas works on just an opposite strategy to this and quite successful. It first assures the water supply and then constructs toilets. Under this program 700 villages in Odisha have ended defecating in the open. Villagers also collect money to construct more toilets under this scheme. For this Corpus fund has been created and every household deposits Rs 1000 with a corpus fund. Generally mobilization of a community is a problem as it takes six to 14 months. A vigilance group is also elected by the village to take care of the toilets and drinking water. It can also impose penalty.
Sanitation in India is not just a single problem but with this health as well as water problems are also associated. For the success of any program involvement of community is must. Along with this a perfect management defines the success of any campaign or program.