Posted by & filed under Articles, India, Sulabh News.

The Indian government has launched a 'no lavatory, no bride' campaign, telling women to reject potential suitors if they cannot provide an inside lavatory.

The comments were made by India's controversial rural development minister, Jairam Ramesh, who recently angered Hindus by pointing out there were more temples than lavatories for the country's 1.2 billion people.

In a speech to villagers in Rajasthan, he said it wasn't enough for families to check astrological charts to decide if a young man is suitable, they should also inspect his closet.

"You consult astrologers about rahu-ketu (the alignment of sun and moon) before getting married. You should also look whether there is a toilet in your groom's home before you decide don't get married in a house where there is no toilet," he warned.

His comments are part of a series of speeches and schemes to increase the number of indoor lavatories in a country where more have a mobile phone than a lavatory.

More than 900 million – 75 per cent of the population – has a mobile phone subscription in India, while only half of its households have a lavatory, according to last year's census. Only 11 per cent of homes have a lavatory connected to the sewerage system.

The shortfall means India is the world's "largest open-air toilet", the minister said earlier this year.

The problem is worse for India's women, many of whom are forced to rise before dawn to do their ablutions under cover of darkness. There have been a number of cases reported recently of women being raped or assaulted while searching for somewhere to go to the lavatory.

A spokesman for the minister agreed that if all young women backed his call, there would be far fewer weddings. But he said Mr Ramesh will continue making his call in a series of speeches throughout the country.

"We need to remove the open defecation system. This is a continuing campaign to eradicate it," he said.

Brindeshwar Pathak, founder of the sanitation charity Sulabh International said India had yet to eradicate open defecation more than two millennia after the problem was described by its great political thinker Kautilya in around 300 BC.

The government should offer cheap loans to help people build lavatories and defecating in the open "should be a punishable offence," he said.

Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/9625629/Indian-government-launches-no-lavatory-no-bride-campaign.html

Posted by & filed under Articles, Delhi, Sulabh News.

A new campaign in India is urging brides to reject suitors if they cannot provide them with an indoor bathroom. The country’s rural development minister Jairam Ramesh recently pointed out that there are more temples than bathrooms in India.

The Indian government has launched a 'no lavatory, no bride' campaign, telling women to reject potential suitors if they cannot provide an inside lavatory.

The comments were made by India's controversial rural development minister, Jairam Ramesh, who recently angered Hindus by pointing out there were more temples than lavatories for the country's 1.2 billion people.

In a speech to villagers in Rajasthan, he said it wasn't enough for families to check astrological charts to decide if a young man is suitable, they should also inspect his closet.

"You consult astrologers about rahu-ketu (the alignment of sun and moon) before getting married. You should also look whether there is a toilet in your groom's home before you decide don't get married in a house where there is no toilet," he warned.

His comments are part of a series of speeches and schemes to increase the number of indoor lavatories in a country where more have a mobile phone than a lavatory.

More than 900 million – 75 per cent of the population – has a mobile phone subscription in India, while only half of its households have a lavatory, according to last year's census. Only 11 per cent of homes have a lavatory connected to the sewerage system.

The shortfall means India is the world's "largest open-air toilet", the minister said earlier this year.

The problem is worse for India's women, many of whom are forced to rise before dawn to do their ablutions under cover of darkness. There have been a number of cases reported recently of women being raped or assaulted while searching for somewhere to go to the lavatory.

A spokesman for the minister agreed that if all young women backed his call, there would be far fewer weddings. But he said Mr Ramesh will continue making his call in a series of speeches throughout the country.

"We need to remove the open defecation system. This is a continuing campaign to eradicate it," he said.

Brindeshwar Pathak, founder of the sanitation charity Sulabh International said India had yet to eradicate open defecation more than two millennia after the problem was described by its great political thinker Kautilya in around 300 BC.

The government should offer cheap loans to help people build lavatories and defecating in the open "should be a punishable offence," he said.

Source : http://india.nydailynews.com/newsarticle/cacb8d6398cc59ef46d59f194eef2b29/indian-government-launches-no-lavatory-no-bride-campaign

Posted by & filed under Delhi, In the Press, Interviews.

Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak feels the government has to gets its act together if it really plans to promote the use of toilets. 



In an interview with Sugandha Pathak, he suggests direct  funding and a  more aggressive awareness campaign. 



Excerpts:



How do think Delhi fares in providing public toilet facilities?



Delhi requires at least 50,000 public toilets. However, promoting hygiene and sanitation through creating awareness for using toilets doesn't still top the list of our government's priorities. When a clean public toilet is given to the public, there is an option to create employment opportunities – like a tea stall located nearby. Just as the government is promoting and advertising the usage of direct to home (DTH) television, I think creating awareness about the use of toilets is necessary. In slums, as per the law, nobody can construct a toilet in their home. We did construct a few toilets in slum areas. However, with the responsibility of maintenance given to various municipalities, the toilets were badly maintained and people stopped using them eventually. 



What are the challenges you face while promoting the idea of public and personal toilets in rural and urban spaces?



The government is yet to come out with a well planned and strategic scheme for constructing toilets, disbursing funds and creating awareness. I don’t think anybody in the concerned ministries really understands the entire government scheme for construction of public and personal toilets in rural and urban areas. Like the funding (Rs 7,000 given to construct each toilet ) for the budget allocated to build toilets in villages is divided between state government and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). The government should not divide funds as it delays the process.



How difficult is it to reach to the people, especially in rural spaces?



There are social constraints, like the habit of preferring defecating in open spaces. Then the caste system is also deep-rooted, so one cannot ask the zamindar as well as a farmer to construct similar types of toilets. The government cannot force people to construct just one type of toilet, which it is doing right now. The people need to be given options from cheap to expensive toilet technologies. 



What do you think is the solution?



The easiest way to convince villagers to build toilets, apart from awareness, is direct funding. The state government should transfer allocated budget to banks that are linked to panchayats, which can then give the amount directly to villagers willing to construct toilets. Rope in youngsters who should be trained about constructing various kinds of toilets and will create awareness, do maintenance and follow up. And they should be given some incentive in the form of money. 



Tell me more about the various technologies used for construction of toilets by your organisation? 



We believe that whatever raw material is available in rural areas should be used in building toilets. Like in north-eastern India, bamboo is used for the walls of the toilet. Similarly, mud, bricks, etc can be used. Villagers prefer an open toilet as they feel suffocated in a regular toilet, so we have made toilets with no roof. 



Then for urban spaces, because the sewage system was constructed in the 1800s, there needs to be an alternative to dispose of waste. The toilets we have engineered have a set-up where the excreta becomes biogas and can be used as fertiliser, fuel, etc. We have not patented any of our designs. Anybody willing to build toilets can take our designs, as I firmly believe that the toilet is a tool of social change.

Source : http://www.deccanherald.com/content/286886/delhi-needs-least-50000-urinals.html

Posted by & filed under Articles, India, Sulabh News.

Abused or banished by in-laws after the deaths of their husbands, nearly 15,000 women seek shelter in Vrindavan.

VRINDAVAN, INDIA — Lalita Goswami was married only a few years when her husband, a Hindu priest who beat her and abused drugs, died of an apparent overdose. She was left with three young children.

Still, she said, being married was better than being a widow.

That ordeal has lasted for decades. After her husband died, the brother-in-law who took her in kicked her out, forcing her back to her parents' home in Kolkata. Her brother saw her as a financial burden and neighbors ostracized her. In a bid to keep peace, her mother exiled her and her two youngest children to Vrindavan in central India, a sacred town known as the City of Widows.

Today, nearly 15,000 widows live in Vrindavan, where the Hindu god Krishna is said to have grown up. Although it is believed they were first drawn for religious reasons centuries ago, many widows now come to this city of 4,000 temples to escape abuse in their home villages — or are banished by their husbands' families so they won't inherit property.

Goswami spends her time at Mahila Ashray Sadan, one of several widow ashrams supported by charities here.

"What else could I do?" said Goswami, a solicitous woman who strokes visitors' faces and touches their feet in a traditional sign of respect. She lives in a 30-bed dormitory laced with the widows' meager possessions.

Goswami recently lost her appetite and suffers from chronic diarrhea and nausea. The ashram gives her one meal a day and a $6-a-month allowance. Healthcare is scarce. "I'm 70, maybe 80," she said. "All I know is, my children have children."

For centuries, Indian widows would throw themselves on their husbands' funeral pyres, reflecting the view that they were of little social worth without their protector and breadwinner. Although that practice, known as sati, has been outlawed, widows are still traditionally considered inauspicious, particularly in Bengali culture, their presence at weddings and festivals shunned and even their shadows seen as bad luck.

Until a few decades ago, widows were often accused of causing their husbands' deaths — the mother-in-law in older Hindi films would accuse the new widow of "eating her son" alive. Even now, "unlucky" widows are scorned for remarrying, views reformers attribute more to India's male-dominated society than religious tenets.

"Widows are treated like untouchables," said Bindeshwar Pathak, head of the civic group Sulabh International. "Indian tradition is very full of heritage and knowledge, but some of our traditions are beyond humanity."

In August, an outraged Supreme Court ordered government and civic agencies to improve the lives of women in Vrindavan after local media reported abandoned corpses being put in sacks and tossed into the river, a charge officials deny. The government of West Bengal state, where most widows who live here come from, has since promised to provide them with government housing and a stipend exceeding what they'd receive in Vrindavan, which is in Uttar Pradesh state.

But social workers, pointing to similar past initiatives, say follow-through is often lacking. Nor is it clear that the widows want to leave Vrindavan, said Yashoda Verma, who manages the 160-resident Mahila ashram.

According to centuries-old Hindu laws, a widow hoping to obtain enlightenment should renounce luxuries and showy clothes, pray, eat a simple vegetarian diet (no onions, garlic or other "heating" foods that inflame sexual passions) and devote herself to her husband's memory.

At least, that's the idea.

"Very rarely do you see people go to Vrindavan because they're devoted to the cause," said Rosinka Chaudhuri, a fellow at the Center for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta. "Sometimes it's blackmail, or if you're not loved enough, you take yourself up. But the numbers are staggering."

Guddi, a resident in her 70s with a square face and a nose ring, said she came to Vrindavan after being abused by her daughter-in-law, a common complaint.

"What's the point if they feed me two rotis [flatbread] but beat me with a shoe?" said Guddi, who uses one name. "If I'd been born a man, life would've been better. There isn't much respect for women in India."

But social and generational changes are also evident. Even as prejudices linger in rural areas, a growing number of widows in urban areas or those from less-restrictive families remarry — sometimes to a brother-in-law — maintain careers and share the inheritance.

All widows over 60 are eligible for a $16 monthly government pension and food allowance. But up to 80% are illiterate and unable to navigate India's labyrinthine bureaucracy. Even those who do succeed complain that inefficiency and corruption siphon off some of their money.

Many supplement their income by chanting up to five hours a day at local temples — essentially singing for their supper — in return for 10 cents and a bowl of rice. Goswami gave that up when her health deteriorated.

Activists argue that policies should aim to make the widows financially independent rather than depending on minuscule handouts.

But others point out that some widows can earn a decent living at Vrindavan. Goswami's ashram forbids begging, but widows who live independently can earn up to $150 a month begging from the half-million pilgrims visiting each year.

The ashram believes begging is a social evil, particularly when residents' basic needs are covered. Verma, the ashram's manager, said some Vrindavan residents aren't really widows and use the earnings to support families back home.

"Many are faking," she said, adding that her ashram informally vets newcomers to limit the abuse. "Some lie for a nice place to live."

In sharp contrast with a nearby six-lane highway and new gated communities with names like Omaxe Eternity and Hare Krishna Residency, some of the government- and charity-run ashrams evoke the Victorian era.

Mahila's residents appear relatively comfortable, but at an adjoining ashram run by another civic group, bugs course across the floor, a diesel smell fills hallways that lead to dilapidated rooms and the plumbing is broken.

Goswami took a circuitous path to her ashram. On reaching Vrindavan with her two toddler sons — the in-laws kept her daughter, whom she never saw again — she said she worked for several years as a cook and maid until she was injured when a monkey attacked her, causing her to fall two stories.

One son went insane after "a girl from Bombay put a hex on him," she said, while the other followed his father into the Hindu priesthood. "He makes good money," she said. "But he's thrown me away."

Goswami said she thought about killing herself when she was widowed but resisted, given her responsibilities.

"Sometimes I wish I'd committed sati," she said. "I didn't because of my sons, and look how they treat me."

As she spoke, she looked around the crowded dormitory decorated with images of Hindu gods. "The fact of it is," she said, "widows are doomed."

mark.magnier@latimes.com

Tanvi Sharma of The Times' New Delhi bureau contributed to this report.

Source : http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/16/world/la-fg-india-widows-20121016

Posted by & filed under Articles, In the Press, India.

There is a shortage of toilets, especially clean ones, in most parts of the country, say people who cannot understand the brouhaha over a minister's remark that toilets are more important than temples in the country.

"A toilet, and a clean one at that, is terribly important, especially when you are on the move and need to go to one urgently," said Sita Ram, an office assistant.

"Whenever I travel to my village in Rajasthan I use the toilet before boarding the bus, and then when I get home. The few ones along the roadside are terribly dirty," says Sita Ram.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh drew flak from some quarters of the opposition, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena and the Bajrang Dal, for his remark that toilets are more important than temples in India.

"The free public toilets in the city are unusable, they are terribly filthy. Even the paid toilets are dirty. You pay Rs.5 and have to tip-toe around muck in order to use the facility," says Swati Agarwal, a receptionist.

According to Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak, the minister's remark was in "no way hurting religious sentiments".

"India has small and big temples in large numbers, but you will not find any public conveniences around these temples. The minister did not say anything to hurt anyone," said Pathak.

"In Sulabh, sanitation is our religion," said Pathak, whose NGO has been striving to promote sanitation across the country. "India lacks the culture of sanitation. Even if you go to a decent restaurant for a good meal, you will find the toilets are invariably dirty," he added.

Pathak said Ramesh was "trying to focus on the importance of toilets.”

Annie Raja, general secretary All India National Federation of Indian Women, said "vested interests were playing up" the minister's remark.

"He was highlighting the issue of lack of toilets. So many women and young girls are subject to sexual violence when they go to the fields and open spaces due to the lack of toilets," said Raja.

"Lack of toilets is a huge issue for women and girls," she added. (Read about Priyanka Bharti, who ran away from her in-laws' house because there was no toilet and returned only after they built a toilet. – Ed)

She said that one can see many small and big places of worship on the road, but not enough toilets in slums. "The issue should be addressed, instead of making it such a controversy," she said.

Prem Jakhar, an office assistant, said the "muck-filled" toilets she encounters every time she has to take a bus trip to different places, makes her feel like retching.

"The toilets are so dirty, you can't even step into them, leave alone use them," Jakhar said.

The United Nation's Millennium Development Goals, in a report in July, said that in India it is easier to find cellphone coverage in the most backward villages than a proper toilet.

By June 2011, 98.1 percent of the country's inhabited villages were connected by wireless mobile networks. However, 626 million people in the country – the highest number in the world – don't have a closed toilet and consequently practice open defecation.

"Yes, we definitely lack toilets in our country," said Jakhar. – IANS

Source : http://www.theweekendleader.com/Causes/1363/hail-jairam.html

Posted by & filed under Articles, Delhi, Sulabh News.

It's good that union minister Jairam Ramesh has triggered an animated conversation around toilets, usually given short shrift in public discourse. But at the same time, pitching temples against toilets on a priority scale has confounded the debate. The issue at hand cannot be boiled down to a simple faith vs utility argument. Temples are places where a community congregates, and there is enough individual and community interest in building them. But the issue is what can be a viable business model for building toilets, which serve individuals or small groups.

It's here that the government needs to step in. Ramesh is ducking responsibility as a member of the Union Cabinet if he merely attributes the shortage of toilets to a supposed philanthropic deficit in Indian society overall, carefully bracketing out any government role in enhancing social welfare, in this case sanitation. Interestingly, the most active intervention in this field has come from Sulabh International, an NGO which launched a movement in the 1970s to liberate scavengers. Using low-cost and hygienic technology Sulabh has, over the last three decades, devised 26 toilet designs of varying budgets, with the help of local materials, factoring in existing water scarcity.

Its partnerships with governments, private companies, religious institutions and railways have generated viable non-profit business models, based on communication and motivation. The most successful of these include residential and pay-per-use toilets in highly populated areas, building toilets on land and funds provident by the clients. Since then more private players, like the Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres, have entered the toilets market. But at the end of the day, the onus of ensuring universal access to toilets rests primarily on governments and not on NGOs or religious trusts.

Source : http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/opinion/edit-page/Lets-talk-about-it-Ramesh-has-brought-toilets-into-public-discourse-now-devise-solutions/articleshow/16772821.cms

Posted by & filed under Articles, Delhi, In the Press.

Census 2011 threw up a malodorous statistic: people in 49.8 per cent of households have no toilet facilities and defecate in the open. In contrast, 63.2 per cent of households have a telephone connection, of which 52.3 per cent have cell phones; as for televisions, almost half of the country’s households possess one. Nobody would even whisper in protest if someone, struck by this perverse anomaly, were to say that Indians needs toilets more than they do television sets and telephones. So why is there such blather over some perfectly reasonable remarks by Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh which were intended to stress that India requires more toilets than it does more temples? His suggestion that India has more temples than toilets was not part of an anti-religious tirade but a piece of hyperbole to stress the importance of sanitation in a speech to panchayat-level workers at the launch of a campaign to end open defecation. To suggest, as some have, that it was an insidious attempt to hyphenate toilets and temples in an ugly alliterative juxtaposition is rank nonsense.

In a country where politics hungrily attempts to feed off prickly religious sensitivities, Mr. Ramesh’s comments have been twisted out of context and blown out of all proportion. BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy has alleged that such comments would destroy the “fine fabric of religion and faith” and the fierce chorus of protests have led the Congress to forsake principle for expedience and distance itself from Mr. Ramesh’s remarks. Predictably, in this republic of hurt sentiments, at least one complaint has already been lodged with the police asking that a case be booked against him for outraging religious feelings — which, given the circumstances, reads like poor toilet humour. The only voice in favour of Mr. Ramesh emerged from Sulabh International, an NGO committed to the building of toilets. Organisations like these understand how vital toilets are to the well-being of India. A World Bank study conducted a couple of years ago estimated the economic impact of the lack of toilets and sanitation facilities, which it pegged at a staggering Rs. 24,000 crore annually — or 6.4 per cent of India’s GDP. This loss is created by deaths, especially of children, the cost of treating hygiene-related illnesses, losses from reduced productivity and educed tourism revenues. Open defecation is an ugly reminder of the country’s poverty and the failure of the government to provide adequate water and sanitation facilities. But it is more than a matter of shame and embarrassment — it has social and economic implications that this country can hardly afford.

Source : http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/a-stinking-mess/article3981896.ece

Posted by & filed under Articles, Delhi, In the Press.

 

A prominent NGO involved in promoting sanitation in the country today strongly defended Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh who created a controversy by saying there were more temples in the country than toilets.

Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak came in Ramesh’s defence after BJP attacked the minister and Congress distanced itself from his controversial remark.

Hailing Ramesh for pushing the agenda of sanitation in the country, Pathak said what Ramesh has stated is “factually correct” and the statement should be viewed in this context.

“I urge people to take it (the remark) in a positive perspective. What Ramesh meant was to make India an open-defecation free nation. There should not be any unnecessary controversy over it,” Pathak said, adding the comment must be treated as an effort to motivate masses against open defecation.

BJP had slammed Ramesh for his comment, saying he should not make such statements which hurt the “fine fabric of faith and religion” in the country. BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said maintained that one should not get into the debate of what is more important – a temple or a toilet.

Congress on its part appeared to disapprove of the Minister, saying, “We respect the sanctity of every religious place”. “Congress party believes in sarvadharmasambhav. Equal respect for all religions. Equal respect for all religious places,” party spokesman Manish Tewari had said.

Source : http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sulabh-comes-to-jairams-defence-over-templetoilet-row/article3974961.ece

Posted by & filed under Articles, In the Press, India.

 

New Delhi, Oct 8 (IANS) There is a shortage of toilets, especially clean ones, in most parts of the country, say people who cannot understand the brouhaha over a minister’s remark that toilets are more important than temples in the country.

“A toilet, and a clean one at that, is terribly important, especially when you are on the move and need to go to one urgently,” said Sita Ram, an office assistant.

“Whenever I travel to my village in Rajasthan I use the toilet before boarding the bus, and then when I get home. The few ones along the roadside are terribly dirty,” Sita Ram told IANS.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh drew flak from some quarters of the opposition, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena and the Bajrang Dal, for his remark that toilets are more important than temples in India.

“The free public toilets in the city are unusable, they are terribly filthy. Even the paid toilets are dirty. You pay Rs.5 and have to tip-toe around muck in order to use the facility,” Swati Agarwal, a receptionist, told IANS.

According to Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak, the minister’s remark was in “no way hurting religious sentiments”.

“India has small and big temples in large numbers, but you will not find any public conveniences around these temples. The minister did not say anything to hurt anyone,” Pathak told IANS.

“In Sulabh, sanitation is our religion,” said Pathak, whose low-cost NGO has been striving to promote sanitation across the country. “India lacks the culture of sanitation. Even if you go to a decent restaurant for a good meal, you will find the toilets are invariably dirty,” he added.

Pathak said Ramesh was “trying to focus on the importance of toilets”.

Annie Raja, general secretary All India National Federation of Indian Women, said “vested interests were playing up” the minister’s remark.

“He was highlighting the issue of lack of toilets. So many women and young girls are subject to sexual violence when they go to the fields and open spaces due to the lack of toilets,” Raja told IANS.

“Lack of toilets is a huge issue for women and girls,” she added.

She said that one can see many small and big places of worship on the road, but not enough toilets in slums. “The issue should be addressed, instead of making it such a controversy,” she said.

Prem Jakhar, an office assistant, said the “muck-filled” toilets she encounters every time she has to take a bus trip to different places, makes her feel like retching.

“The toilets are so dirty, you can’t even step into them, leave alone use them,” Jakhar said.

The United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, in a report in July, said that in India it is easier to find cellphone coverage in the most backward villages than a proper toilet.

By June 2011, 98.1 percent of the country’s inhabited villages were connected by wireless mobile networks. However, 626 million people in the country – the highest number in the world – don’t have a closed toilet and consequently practice open defecation.

“Yes, we definitely lack toilets in our country,” said Jakhar.

Source : http://www.firstpost.com/fwire/yes-minister-we-need-more-toilets-483697.html