One month after the horrific Badaun gang rape exposed how gravely at risk women and minors lacking domestic toilets are, India's sanitation scenario remains dire. Social worker and Padma Bhushan awardee Bindeshwar Pathak is founder of Sulabh Sanitation Movement, an organisation that helps build low-cost toilets across the country. Speaking with Fozia Yasin, Pathak discussed the socio-economic costs of lacking proper sanitation, practical ways to correct this — and the best and worst performing states in providing basic facilities:
Recent crimes highlight a lack of basic facilities how do you evaluate the situation?
Well, women really suffer the most because of an absence of toilets in rural areas. They have to go to open locations only before sunrise and after sunset. Unlike men, they simply cannot do so during the day. Apart from a vulnerability to rape, they are also prone to animal attacks and snakebites. What's more, many girls aren't even going to school because of the lack of toilets there.
There are also around 50 diseases caused due to poor sanitary practices. This directly impacts the larger economic situation with a number of workdays routinely lost and with growing healthcare costs.
Why isn't providing basic sanitation a prio basic sanitation a priority for a country aiming to be a superpower?
The provision of toilets and the abolition of manual scavenging was a priority for the previous government — but it could not implement the programme satisfactorily. Many promises made were never achieved.
Today, funds allocated for the cause aren't enough. Billionaires should chip in for a new sanitation movement in India. With the help of 690 rich people, we could cover all the 690 districts of India.
Until then, a World Bank report says over 600 million people are forced to use openair locations. How to deal with this situation?
It's a shame. The country needs about 120 million more latrines now. We need large-scale construction of public toilets and urinals across towns and cities. In urban slums, inhabitants have no right on the land, so they can't even construct toilets inside their premises — for them, public toilets with urinals, bathing facilities, laundry spots and a small health centre should be constructed. Such toilets should be maintained by municipal corporations free of charge.
India has a strong demo graphic dividend how can its young people help?
Well, in rural areas, to begin with, five boys and girls in each block should be trained in the construction and maintenance of toilets. There are 5,924 blocks or talukas in India. Therefore, 30,000 boys and girls should be trained in this procedure.
In urban areas, such young people should also be allowed to charge some money for their livelihood, so that they can sustain themselves and work as group motivators. They should go house to house and educate people about the health hazards of open defecation, helping make facilities.
Which are three best and worst states in providing basic facilities to people?
Goa, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand are the top three states with good sanitation coverage.
Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are the worst.
Source : http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/opinion/interviews/Women-suffer-sanitation-absence-most-also-impacts-economy-Bindeshwar-Pathak/articleshow/37268448.cms?