Sanitation is more important than independence, says father of our nation Mahatma Gandhi. He always emphasized on swachhta as swachhta leads to healthy and prosperous life and today I hold a strong opinion that is not just the Indian state that has never invested in the complete sanitation chain but it’s also the people of nation who have contributed less to the overall health and hygiene. I will be supporting this throughout on how both the sectors have failed and how we as a nation are responsible for making the mission Swachh Bharat a successful one.
Poor sanitation and lack of hygiene are causing one in every 10 deaths in the country; about 1,000 children die every day. Nearly 600 million Indians, almost twice the size of the US population, indulge in open defecation. Diarrhea, a consequence of lack of sanitation and clean drinking water, is the largest killer and accounts for every twentieth death. Under-nutrition among children aged less than five years is almost 50%.Littering, open drains, spitting in public, potholes that become receptacles for stagnant water are just a few examples about how we as a society have enhanced the capability of such diseases to spread with such devastating consequences. Fixing this can’t be the responsibility of only one important stakeholder-the government. It becomes responsibility of every individual to help mitigate these problems.
Personal hygiene is a way of life for most Indians; the same is not true with respect to social hygiene. In other words, while keeping one’s home and surroundings clean is a daily priority, the same is not true when it comes to using community assets-such as streets, public transport and so on. People somehow perceive that this is the responsibility of the government. You travel to the US, Europe or East Asia and one would be struck by the cleanliness around. Yes, the concerned civic authorities are doing a good job, but it is as good as what the local people will allow it to be. If everyone in our country behaved the same then our nation would be no better in every aspect that we are falling behind .If not for the sake of the country, it becomes the responsibility of every individual to live in a clean and healthy environment to have a better living.
With 4260 crore rupees getting annually spent on rural sanitation, a little of it is seen to come for the rescue. Even in the case of Delhi, where NDMC spends a lot of money in the upkeep of toilets, open defecation hasn’t been put to a halt. Interestingly, in many places around the capital, local people have teamed up by placing images of a religious deity on walls. However, one finds a person urinating at some considerable distance from those divine images. Having grown up in an era of ‘yojanas’ and ‘abhiayans’, it is important for us to see Swach Bharat Ahiyan as not getting flushed away in mere tokenism. Do you feel it’s the responsibility of the government to make you defecate in the bathrooms even after building the necessary infrastructure? The answer is clearly no, it’s again the balance between people and government help make it a clean India better India.
With gender-segregated toilets, inclusive and accessible facilities, students will be assured of privacy and dignity and children with special needs can attend school. When girls have access to safe and clean toilets and water at school, they are less likely to miss school while menstruating. Also unfortunately in India, if the toilet situation is bad, the status of excreta treatment and disposal – a domain that is entirely the responsibility of the government – is abysmal. Just about 34% of the population’s latrines are connected either to septic tanks or underground sewerage; the rest have pit latrines where the waste decomposes, usually in unhealthy conditions. Local bodies provide little or no services for septic tank cleaning. Now this is somewhere government stands sole responsible for setting up the right things for the people and facilitate them lead a clean life.
To conclude, there lies an urgent need to make people realize that their public space should also be treated as private, as it needs equal attention. Unlike other campaigns, this most hyped ‘swachh bharat campaign’ bears the burden of expectations as it caters to all sections of society moving beyond caste, creed and religion, focusing more on personal hygiene and sanitation. Also, it’s time for us to introspect and try to engage with it in some way or the other. Since blaming the government every time will not clean our mess. Remember, the next time you litter, the garbage will be cleaned by someone working under inhospitable conditions, in potholes as a manual scavenger, or as a rag picker in their attempt to maintain a breathing space for us. Let’s work together. Let’s make swachh bharat a reality. Let’s dream of green nation clean nation and make this dream turn to reality.