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The severity of the Open defecation problem in India can be understood by the fact that it was the main agenda of the Indian Prime Minister speech while addressing his country for the first time ever as PM. Sanitation has always been a problem in India considering the growing population and insufficient facilities.

Even after a great initiative of Swach Bharat Abhiyaan instigated by the Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi which also aims to make India an Open-Defecation free country till 2019, the progress is still not as good as might have been expected. Indian crowds are still going to fields in the morning to take care of their morning business. Lack of proper facilities can be one of the problems.

Other issues that create hindrance are the lack of awareness, lack of will to take initiative, less or no willingness to opt for a hygienic way of life and so on. Now even Bollywood has come to join the forces against open defecation practice. The Movie named ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’ starring Akshay Kumar and Bhumi Pednekar is based on the same issue, where a girl denies staying with her husband because he does not have a toilet inside his house. This movie might touch people’s heart and might make them think about the health impacts and other issues that can affect a society.

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Statistics supporting the gravity of the situation

In 2015 it was assessed that 2.4 billion people internationally had no access to developed sanitation amenities and 946 million people among them excrete in the open. It constitutes the major population from India which is close to 564 million.

2015 Swachhta Status Report of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) suggests that more than half of Indian rural population still do not use a toilet. The number suggests that almost 52.1% of Indian rural population eliminate body waste outside creating a major health risk.  These people use outdoors to defecate like fields, railway trails, garbage areas, common public areas or along the roads.

This is especially dangerous for infants as such exposure to waste is the reason for health issues like Diarrhoea and other deadly diseases. More than 300 children in India lose their life to Diarrhoea due to poor hygiene. The diseases spread through water ways also, as it was reported that around 1.1 million Lt of unprocessed sewage flows into India’s holy river, Ganga, per minute. In cities, 10% of the population follows open defecation practice. In Delhi alone, more than 50% of children in slum areas do not use toilets.

Fight against Open Defecation

Open defecation is not only a very unfortunate sanitation issue but also leads to exploitation of women and children and sometimes even costs their dignity and self-respect. This issue created the movement among Indian women cited as ‘No Loo, No I Do’.

Under this campaign, numerous brides denied getting married into families with no proper working toilets. This campaign has been the idea behind the upcoming Bollywood movie also where the actress is playing a role of a woman standing for her right to have proper sanitation.

In 2014, UNICEF also started an interactive program in India against open defecation, recommending residents to ‘take their poo to the loo’.

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An important aspect to create awareness is stimulating the will to change among masses. Many associations and governments at global and national level have taken various steps to achieve this goal, such as UN World Toilet Day.

Many other conducts changing campaigns focus on changing political intentions and creating a demand for sanitation. Community-Led Total Sanitation campaigns motivate societies into taking action for their betterment.

In India also, various government initiatives try to reduce open defecation in the country, for example ‘Total Sanitation Campaign’. In 2012, it was re-launched with a new name as ‘Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan’. In 2014, it was further modified into a broader campaign known as Swach Bharat Abhiyaan or Clean India Mission.

Way to better future

According to statistics from NSSO, access to sanitary toilets in rural and urban areas has increased considerably from 1993 to 2012. Curbing the practice of open defecation requires more than just access to toilets. This movement is about creating demand for lavatories and somehow help everyone to understand the benefits of using it on daily basis.

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It is hard to convince people to use toilets as this ancient mal-practice is still considered as ‘normal’ in many Indian communities. GOI initiative called Swach Bharat is a drive to fashion a habit among general people where they recognize the significance of covered toilets and hence to encourage public to use them.

Although the administration is emphasizing on the number of toilets constructed, the outlook of the silent majority towards the usage of urinals has a long way to go. This fact is supported by the research data which claims that at least one family member of the 40% of households, which have functioning toilets, prefers open defecation.

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However, all is not bad in this effort. This movement has shown some real developments in past few years. There are still around 450 million Indian people with no access to toilets but the overall results paint an optimistic picture as more and more Indian states are coming under ‘Open Defecation Free’ list.

Also, there has been great involvement of government in past few years to end this unhygienic practice. In 2016-17 there was a considerable 66% rise in funds assigned for the construction of toilets. To add to the good news, reports suggest that the assigned funds are being utilized completely for the cause.

To add an end note, I would like to emphasize on the fact that it is our choice to opt for better hygienic lifestyle and we can work together to keep our children and society disease-free and safe. Let’s work to accomplish a better future.

Happy Independence Day to all Indians!!


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