Major Drawback

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 24 Jun 2018 10:48:25


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It has proved to be a major inspiration to a large number of villagers who still practice open defecation in their respective villages. Open defecation is a major drawback of India that is riled and loathed world-wide. Nowhere in the world is the practice so widely prevalent.”

“Every open patch of green, every river bank, every bush and shrub, and every railway track has turned into a potential defecation ground.”


A PERFECT example was set at Pipraha village falling under Pushprajgargh Janpad Panchayat of Anuppur in Madhya Pradesh when a marriage was put on hold unless open-defecation was stopped in the family.


Reportedly, after the would-be bride came to learn about open defecation at her in-laws home, she rang up her would-be mother-in-law and supplicated to ensure that pucca toilet got constructed before her arrival as the bride. Luckily, the considerate would-be mother-in-law not only agreed upon the girl’s request but also took initiative in the immediate construction of a pucca toilet. The girl at her parents’ home was accustomed to using a pucca toilet. She was highly perturbed after she came to learn about open defecation. Santa Bai, the would be mother-in-law, expressed her solidarity for the request made and assured that the marriage would get deferred for some time until the construction of the toilet got accomplished.


The groom named Hemraj Singh, his father Hattu Prasad Singh and other members of the family came out in possession with a spade and started with the work in the space allocated for the construction of pucca toilet. The novel move initiated by the bold bride is widely discussed among villagers.


It has proved to be a major inspiration to a large number of villagers who still practice open defecation in their respective villages. Open defecation is a major drawback of India that is riled and loathed world-wide. Nowhere in the world is the practice so widely prevalent.


Every open patch of green, every river bank, every bush and shrub, and every railway track has turned into a potential defecation ground. The Narendra Modi Government’s first major nation-wide push was to eliminate open defecation. As part of the Swachh Bharat campaign, at least 5 million toilets have been constructed in less than four years, thereby drastically reducing open defecation. This is an initiative that was never taken in last 60 years despite everyone knowing the reality and the sordidness of the whole affair. The growing population and shrinking living areas in cities had forced millions of people out on the fields to relieve themselves.


That was an easy way out. No one wanted to spend on toilets as long as open spaces were around and there was no one to object. The practice had got so brazen that it had started intruding into residential colonies and disturbing the whole ambience of clean and civilised localities, putting women and girls to shame. In villages, people never knew the importance of having toilets.


Using the field came so naturally to them that toilet was a redundant addition in the household. The psyche had grown such that toilet was never a priority despite having the money. The Government noted these things and very intensely pursued the cleanliness mantra to sow the seeds of a national culture where open defecation could be seen as a crime. Through the extensive and persistent use of communication channels and the media tools across diverse platforms, it was instilled in the people that open defecation was not natural or normal and more importantly, it was unhygienic that could give birth to several diseases.


In any case, millions of children in India die every year due to unhygienic practices followed and allowed in homes, open defecation is one of them. Unless there was an aggressive and sustained target-wise focus on toilets, cleanliness and hygiene that was shown by the Government, we would not have achieved this success today.


A clear-cut national policy was put in place and ample fund and technical wherewithal were made available so that the campaign did not falter midway. This was one of the largest campaigns of its kind in the world and appreciated across the board, not only for its novelty but also for the way it was implemented in letter and spirit and followed up through constant monitoring and setting accountabilities.


The Swacch Bharat Abhiyan can serve as a template for the Government itself as to how a strong will and dedicated approach could change things even in a society of reluctant mindsets.


A Government has immense potential as a harbinger of change and if the resources are rightfully used and the clarity of purpose is upheld, we can change every aspect of our living and working style for the better. But, at the same time, it must be admitted that the task is not over yet.


People have a dangerous habit of slinking back to their old habits as soon as opportunity permits and we should not be too ecstatic at the momentary gains. When in campaign mode, it is easy to force people to do things they are not used to doing, either by instilling fear of action or by incentivising them for their right action. But the real challenge is to see if the practice is adopted by the people on their own and if the change we are seeing today is a permanent achievement that won’t be reversed.


The Government must not lose steam but continue to punish the wrongdoers and reward the righteous. It takes time to change a social orientation of decades or perhaps centuries, and awareness and education are long-term investments whose results take effect in decades. But we don’t have time to wait patiently. We have already damaged much of our environment by our wrong practices. Our public places are already shabby and unaesthetic and we have no scope of further soiling and defacing them.


The Government must be very stringent and non-lenient in allowing any obscenity in the public space, which includes open defecation. If the natural proclivity of the people is unbecoming, it has to be fear that would stop them from doing what is illegal. This is the way national cultures are made. Alongside the constructive activities, it is also needed to make people understand the law and how breaking the law would invite strong punishment. The campaign has to go on and even if there is a change in dispensation, every Government should carry this forward with equal involvement and alacrity until there is not a single home left without a toilet. This is a mission and must be carried on as long as we have a love for our country. India is developing at a fast pace.

Her science and technology are celebrated globally and her social indices are improving. We have to latch on to the momentum to propel India to new heights. Things like widespread open defecation etc are blots on our image and dent our potential to stand tall in the international pecking order. We as individuals too need to complement the government and help it take the country forward. In such a vast country with a federal decentralised structure, it is always tough for the government to do it all alone.


A Government is nothing without its people. If we people act smart and act wisely, the country’s ascendancy will be more swift and complete. Governments will come and go, but India will not change unless we change.