criticalvoices

On issues that matter …

Temples and Toilets – A Stinky Affair October 22, 2012

It cannot even be considered a dubious distinction if your country happens to be the world’s largest open air toilet. Unfortunately India does hold the distinction and although I doubt if anyone is proud of it, not many are bothered about it either.

What bothers me is that far from being ashamed of it, many Indians actually show righteous indignation when someone points it out to them.

So when federal minister Jairam Ramesh recently remarked that India has more temples than toilets, some barefaced right wingers actually made a political issue about hurt religious sentiments.

Desperate to bring home the point, the minister is now asking women not to marry into families that do not have a toilet in their homes.

It is shameful that in this day and age of such technological advances and India boasting of being capable of being a super power, a minister has to issue a slogan that says: ‘No toilet, no bride’. 

Such is the irony of the new slogan that one doesn’t know where a lesson in basic hygiene and a fundamental human sense of modesty and decency need to be taught to those essentially considered as adult men and women in the country.

Five years ago, the Indian government said India would be free of open defecation by 2012. Obviously that hasn’t happened. So now, in 2012, they are promising it would be open defecation free by 2022.

There is no point in wondering why so many Indians are the way they are – without a sense of hygiene. It defies natural logic. So, leaving that apart, I would find fault with consecutive governments over the six decades since the country’s independence have not managed not to prioritize the provision of something as basic a facility as a toilet to millions of people in the country.

And yes, it disgusts me to think the same Indians, those in India and abroad, who would generously pour money into building of temples, would not ever think of writing even a measly check for the construction of a toilet facility in Indian villages or for that matter in urban slums.

Never mind that these are the same people who would take umbrage at a Danny Boyle who filmed an elaborate shot of a toilet in a Mumbai slum, in his Academy award winning film Slumdog Millionaire. Those who saw the film, know what I am talking about and for those who haven’t, you wouldn’t want me to elaborate beyond this.

But get this very open and public statistic into your comprehension – more than half the population of India lacks toilet facilities. That is more than 600 million people. And that indeed, is a lot of crap to be out in the open.

Whoever said India is shining, should know that it is also stinking!

Srirekha Chakravarty

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