On every morning, I go for a brisk walk in a park situated not very far from my house. This park has a peculiar kind of shape. The total length of the park must be between 2 or 3 KM. But the width, which is very narrow, varies between just 50 or 60 meters. In this narrow width, a bicycle track has been accommodated on one side. In the remaining width-wise space, there is a jogging track at the center, with mostly small trees planted on one side and large trees occupy the space on the other side. The spaces between trees are filled with small shrubs and greens. For my brisk walks, this park is ideal, because I can start walking from one end, go to the other end and return back. This way, I can easily cover a distance of about 4 or 5 KM.
The other day, as usual, I was returning from my walk. The time must have been around 9 AM. There were still joggers running on the central track along with some seniors leisurely completing their morning stroll. I could also see some school or college going kids with their trademark backpacks on their backs. While walking at a brisk pace, my attention was momentarily drawn to a side. What I saw there was totally shocking and unbelievable. It shattered all my concepts of public behaviour and civic sense. I felt so ashamed that automatically my eyes got focused to the track in front of me. I just could not dare to lift my eyes and moved away from that spot as quickly as I could. What I saw in that fleeting moment, was a middle aged woman, relieving herself just on the side of the jogging track in the middle of a park. In this garden, there are public toilets provided on either end, so absence or lack of a suitable toilet, was no reason for this action, for this ignorant and silly woman. It was just a case of full and total ignominious ignorance of any civic sense for that stupid woman.
When a person can be so ignorant of the expected normal civilized behaviour, in a city of 4 or 5 Million people and that too at a spot where continuous movement of the people can be seen, I aqm sure that the situation in India’s villages must be unimaginably horrible. UNICEFF, which is a part of the United Nations organization, has recently published a report , which says that 58% of the world’s population defecates in open, even today. What I find in this report most shameful is the fact that 54% of Indian population or about 640 Million people use open spaces for their daily evacuations. Perhaps, in no other country of the world, such a vast number of people defecate in the open space. After India, Indonesia is the next country, where a large number of people have make use of open space as a lavatory. But, compared to India, their number is small, just 57 Millions. After this, 54 Million Chinese also face this ordeal.
It is however difficult to say whether people are facing this difficulty because of the lack of toilets or prefer to do this because of their ignorance. Even in the case of women, the figures for India are equally disgraceful. In India, 60% of the womenfolk carry out the task in open. From these figures, one can very well imagine the neglect and disregard shown by people in India and women in particular towards their personal hygiene. India’s Minister for rural development minister Mr. Jairam Ramesh considers this fact as biggest and largest blot on India, a description any sensible person would agree to. Mr Jairam says that the situation in the states of Haryana, Sikkim, Maharashtra and Kerala is somewhat better, but in rest of the states the situation contuinues to be absolutely disastrous. In the state of Uttar Pradesh, almost 10 % of the population is an easy pray for deadly diseases because of lack of individual and personal hygiene. Out of total 0.6 Million villages of India, only 25000 villages have toilets available for all the village dwellers.
Non maintenance of personal hygiene is the primary reason for the unhealthiness of the society of India at large. About 0.4 Million Indians suffer from Diarrhea every year. Out of which almost 90% are small children. India gets an hit of 2.4 Trillion Rupees, which is 6.4 % of the GDP, because of this personal unhealthiness. Indian Government spends 100 Billion Rupees on Rural development. Out of this only 2 Billion Rupees are spent of programmes connected with personal Hygeine and Toilets. Mr Jairam wants to increase this outlay to at least 10 Billion Rupees. He is quite concerned with the fact that people’s awareness can not be increased by just making rules and laws. He has planned a new initiative, which would be called as ‘Festival of Cleanliness’ and feel that the things can improve only if a social and political mass movement comes up in the Indian society in the field of personal hygiene and cleanliness.
Even though these figures ring warning bells for the nation at large, essentially, lack of personal hygiene makes biggest impact on the life of the unhealthy individual. Just because there are no toilets available within their premises, many Indian womenfolk from villages are forced to to go out in groups to defecate in open spaces in darkness before the dawn breaks. These women find this a very shameful act, which they have to perform every morning. This lack of freedom even to carry out normal needs of a human body makes big impact on psychology of these village womenfolk.
In many towns and villages of India, it appears from the behaviour of the menfolk, that fields, roads or any wall are considered as public urinal places. Womenfolk have no such freedom and are forced to wait even when painful, just to locate a suitable place and time. This must be the biggest national disgrace for India and women in particular
When Indians are freed from such disgraceful behaviours, which are principally caused by the lack of suitable toilet facilities, we can say that there really has been some progress. Today, every other Indian has a mobile phone but has to defecate in open because of the lack of toilets. Under no frame of reference, this situation can be considered as honourable.