The Nirmal Bharat Yatra
was a sanitation & hygiene awareness & behavior change campaign conceptualized & implemented by WASH United & Quicksand. It travelled 2,000 kms across rural parts of 5 Indian states between 2nd October 2012 & 19th November 2012.
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Time for a Toilet Revolution
A weekend ago I had been admitted to a hospital for 5th time recurrent UrinaryTract Infection. After the costly CT Scans and endless antibiotics I left the hospital with the feeling of being looted and happened to visit Dilli Haat the following weekend in hope to cheer myself up. Hypnotized by the bright yellow and pink colored toilets outside Dilli Haat, I rushed towards the counter to find out more. Dumbstruck by the statistics presented by The Great Wash Yatra and learning about the purpose of their journey around India to educate people about cleanliness, hygiene and the importance of clean toilets, I felt relieved by this coincidental ray of hope! Finally there were going to be toilets around India and people were going to be more aware. My bubble of enthusiasm burst as I entered Dilli Haat and one visit to the toilet cost Rs.10/-! On asking the male attendant what this atrocity was all about, he arrogantly points to the hand-made board that reads: ‘Pay And Use Toilet: Gents - Urinal 5/- Toilet 10/-, Ladies - Toilet 10/-’ He continues handing out tickets to the looted people as I shrieked, “Rs.10/- for Ladies?? How do you put a price on nature’s call?? Why on earth do men get to pay less for doing pretty much the same thing as us women?? Aren’t they the ones who pee along the roadside according their own convenience and dirty the country anyway?? How sexist are you?? Or just insensitive!” A bunch of females raised their voices in protest supporting me only until we were asked to leave a complaint at the Manager’s Office, which happened to be closed that day. This episode highlights the contrast between The Great Wash Yatra’s purpose and the dirty reality of Indian public toilets – Free and Dirty OR Clean and Expensive.
My father works in the Ministry Of External Affairs and living in different countries has been ritual. The latest destination I visited was Seoul. Sticking to the hygiene aspect of this city I learnt that whether one is at work, at the local street markets, at the park, by the riverside or to say at any place within the city, clean toilets could be spotted at regular intervals. They would be spotlessly clean, have all the basic amenities and would smell like roses or lavenders. And the cherry on top was that they were for the public to use for free!! Even more common were the finely crafted water dispensers with clean drinkable water that one could depend upon all year round. The Koreans would queue up to sensibly use these toilets by not dirtying it and definitely would not take the soap dispensers home! As a UTI patient, I have been advised to drink more than 4 litres of water a day which naturally means more frequent toilet hunts, which wasn’t a task in Seoul! If the hygiene scenario of Seoul is replicated in India, spending Rs.25,000/- for the treatment of UTI would be history.
Going back to the Dilli Haat scenario, I ask what ever happened to the free toilets that were open for public earlier? Will we ever be able to put our pride aside and learn from the Koreans? Will we have clean and free public toilets around India? We as Indian citizens have all the right to be provided with this crucial service that we demand, but should also learn to value them and give back the country what it gives us for our welfare. I have noticed that dirtying toilets (wether free or Rs.2/- per visit) is very common even amongst the educated population of India which makes me wonder whether educating every Indian from North to South about hygiene and sanitation is enough or do they need to be taught sensitivity towards this basic but important aspect of life. And how many generations is it going to take for us to arrive? ‘Water +Washroom’ happens to be the formula of a healthy being and it about time we wake up to realize it and respect it. I applaud the entire Great Wash Yatra team for having initiated this much required project and look forward to a hygiene revolution in India. Now, I shall sip on some water as I leave you to reflect. Jai hind!