A recent attack on two young girls who were raped and murdered while using an outdoor toilet has highlighted India's poor sanitation. To raise a response to the issue, Bindeshwar Pathak has built a toilet museum in Delhi, from where he spoke to South Asia Correspondent Michael Edwards.
ASHLEY HALL: Horrific crimes against women continue in India, despite the outrage caused by the 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder.
In one such recent atrocity, two young girls were raped and murdered in a small village in India's largest state of Uttar Pradesh.
The girls had gone outside their homes to use the toilet because their mud-brick huts had no indoor facilities.
The situation not only highlighted the treatment of women, it also drew focus to the lack of sanitation for the poor in India, where more than 70 percent of the population don't have access to proper toilets.
Since 1970, Bindeshwar Pathak has been trying to solve this problem.
He set up an organisation that makes low-cost toilets for the poor and subsequently established India's Toilet Museum in Delhi, where the ABC's South Asia correspondent, Michael Edwards, spoke to him.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: The Toilet Museum on the outskirts of New Delhi isn't here for cheap laughs. Sure, it sounds like it could be, but its purpose is deadly serious.
There are ornate toilet bowls that were used by the wealthy. There are examples of outdoor squat toilets and they way things are done in the villages, usually without the help of anything as fancy as a flushing toilet.
It's here to demonstrate just how big the problem of toiletry sanitation is for a country of 1.25 billion people, most of whom live in poverty.
And the founder of the Toilet Museum is Bindeshwar Pathak. For the past 40 years, he's been talking toilets, preaching his message that privies shouldn't just be the privilege of the rich and powerful.
BINDESHWAR PATHAK: More than 70 per cent of the population have no toilets and they go for defecation in the open.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: When the British controlled India, they built sewerage systems in many of the larger cities. But, the smaller towns and villages missed out and not much has been done since they left.
And the results can be seen just about anywhere you go in India.
Even in the cities, the sanitation systems just can't cope with numbers of people. The foul stench of an open sewer can be just around the corner, no matter where you are.
Diseases such as dysentery and cholera are rife in slum areas and it's common to see people defecating out in the open.
The other problem is safety. Without inside toilets, young women have to go outside. Bindeshwar Pathak says it puts them at great risk.
BINDESHWAR PATHAK: Everybody have the newspaper that women are subjected to rape because of going to toilets, going to defecation in the open in night hours or early morning hours.
They can't go before sunrise or after sunset. So it's certainly the safety matter but of dignity also and it is happening throughout the country.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: What can be done to improve the situation? I know you're working on the job, but it's a huge task to try to bring proper sanitation and proper toilets to all of these people across India?
BINDESHWAR PATHAK: It is unfortunate that I started in 1970. I have given everything: technology, methodology and how India can achieve open defecation-free. But, they have not accepted the national policy or they have not framed national policy so far.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: And the brutal reality of the situation was reinforced recently.
Two teenage girls in a small village in Uttar Pradesh escorted each other when they went out at night to go to the toilet. They went missing.
A search party later found them hanging from a tree. An examination found they'd been raped repeatedly. It was a toxic mix of poverty and caste-based violence, all too common in India.
The girls were from the Dalit community, the lowest rung on the caste system. Most Dalits are poor and obviously suffer the worst because of the country's sanitation problems.
BINDESHWAR PATHAK: India should feel ashamed that, because of lack of toilets, the women, the girls have to suffer this type of agonies and insult and indignity. I'm horrified. So what is important that all the Dalits can have toilets.
We have designed in such a way that even a person living in a hut can have toilets because the cost is only $10.
So the poorest of the poor, middle-class and high-income group: all they can have a flush toilet. So that way, now the technology is there. Only the implementation.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: Perhaps help is on the way, though. The newly elected prime minister, Narendra Modi, is from a lower caste.
He's been criticized for being a Hindu nationalist, but during his campaign he made what many hope will be a defining statement: that India needs to build toilets first and temples later.
This is Michael Edwards from New Delhi for Correspondents Report.
Read more at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-12/toilet-museum-highlights-lack-of-sanitation-in/5592200