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Dramatizing Defecation Into A Holy Affair

Indrani Chaudhuri Aug 20, 201613 Responses

No, here I don’t intend to discuss defecation in general but I would rather zero in on how as natural a human affair as this, becomes essentially a tool of power play between Indian society and our government. So, coming from a civilization with a prominent hydraulic engineering, having water supply and sanitation devices, first of their kind, and also world's earliest known system of flush toilets, Modern India had an obvious fixation towards maintaining its legacy in providing amenities that were once not as basic as they are today. Even from an ideological point of view, various social reformers of India propagated the importance of sanitation. From Patanjali’s philosophy to writings of Vivekananda and the Gandhian concept of sanitation, the emphasis on sanitation was integral to India’s cultural foundation. Providing basic sanitation has infact become imperative as India has modernized after all. So what has been done to exhibit such modernity? C’mon, we’re (still) in the process of eradicating open defecation by 2019. Teary eyed much? Nyah …


So we Indians believe a bit too much in restructuring and renaming (not recycling though). Need proof? Okay.

A Hawk’s View on the Mighty Range of Sanitation Programs Being Adopted (and Renamed) by GoI

So the above chart bears testimony to the progress we’ve made, the expertise in toilet making that we’ve demonstrated since ages. Mustn’t I validate the progress? Ofcourse.


The progress can be traced through cases such as Khushboo Kumari who rather embraced death over her daily embarrassment that came along with open defecation (Dumka Jharkhand, July 2015), the menace in Gundala village, the tale of the two teenage cousins who went missing after they went to answer nature’s call in the fields, only to be found gangraped and later hanged from mango tree in May 2014, Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh.


Though sanitation was historically and culturally rooted in India even today 48% of country’s population defecates in the open. Open defecation is not rural phenomenon, considering India contributes to 46% of global open defecation in urban areas. Even in the slums of Maximum City of our country, minimum efforts have been made to provide women sufficient sanitation facilities and spare them from the menace of peeping Toms.


Well our Prachaar Mantri who has dearly fancied the Mahatma’s ideas of sanitation, has readily adopted the Shauchalay Abhiyaan under Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, finally realising the gender inequality that is deeply entrenched in the Indian Society and the kind of frightening realities that women undergo, everyday (and ofcourse the repercussions they will have on his tenure). It wouldn’t have been difficult for him afterall to understand the contradiction and hipocrisy that’s inherent in us, in India, where we consider Gau-Mata’s urine as sacred water but an ordinary ‘Maa-Behen’ urinating in open would only give men some serious ripples under their pants and the ripples would invariably have, not-so-swachh consequences.


Besides, the negative implication of lack of sanitation is reiterated wisdom. A World Bank study estimates that inadequate sanitation accounts for a loss of $53.8 billion (as estimated for 2006) in India, which includes economic losses recorded from tourism, access time, water use and health related economic impacts. This implies a per capita annual loss of $48. India is also a signatory of the Millennium Development Goals, but is lagging severely in meeting its goal on sanitation i.e “halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015”. Thus the government has some serious liabilities, eh?


But then what about the respondents? In a survey conducted in rural Odisha, respondents reported that they felt no stigma associated with open defecation and preferred it over using a latrine as they felt using a latrine caused accumulation of faeces near the house. Funny, isn’t it? Here, menstruation comes with a lot of stigma but menstruating women, openly defecating, don’t. Besides in India where we give primary importance to agriculture, we would rather use the newly constructed toilets for storing our agricultural stock. And what’s the harm in openly defecating anyway? We believe in making the soil naturally fertile by adding as much humus as we can.


However, measures are still suggested bearing in mind the remote possibility of bringing about a change:


  • Introducing Sanitation Programs  facilitating participation of civil society (including women) in the design.
  • Implementation and monitoring of local priorities in rural and urban areas.
  • India also needs a very aggressive IEC program to influence people’s behaviour, preferences, and choices to make the country open defecation free.


Woof!!! Such a prized suggestion!


As I’ve come to the last section of my article, I fondly remember how my friend always highlighted the importance of internalising a particular principle in order to pursue it successfully. Unless we stop treating “ Cleanliness is next to Godliness” as a mere quotation and rather start internalising it,  Swachh Bharat continues to remain a distant dream and “ Jahaan soch wahaan shauchalay “ remains restricted only to television.


However it gives me immense joy to find brothers in Rajasthan, constructing toilets for their sisters as gifts on this raksha-bandhan, a tad dramatic though, but then don’t we Indians like to add the element of sanctity to every aspect of our lives? Besides drama comes naturally to us but then if it comes with some positivity, I don’t mind…!!!


  • Saunak-Sarkar
    Saunak Sarkar

    Awesum,brilliant observation,carry on gal

  • Ritaj-Gupta
    Ritaj Gupta

    Thought provoking 

  • Jaydeep-Sen
    Jaydeep Sen

    Well executed.. Super like..

  • Munavvir-Musthafa
    Munavvir Musthafa

    its a brilliant piece of write up with apt and precise use of words which depicts the reality of rural india with a satirical touch

  • roopan07917771001471688798

    Excellent Indrani, very apt topic chosen and fluidly elaborated. I can understand the problem areas associated with sanitation as part of a routine hygiene practice and secondly the extraneous problems we face in regard to this. 


    As per Gov. schemes, I think 'Swachh Bharat' covers some additional areas apart from sanitation. At the same point there needs be steps taken to eradicate the stigma, reluctance prevalent in the sector. 


    Concerning the standard scheme in West Bengal, Nadia District has efficiently implemented the sanitation requirements calling for zero open public defecation. Still we know that we are lacking the primary hygiene consciousness, be it washing hands with anti-germ soaps properly before meal/ after defecation to chewing and spitting paan-masala here and there. 


    Again we have not been able to abolish the practice of manual-scavenging completely despite it being awfully inhuman and having serious health-hazards. 


    Things change when we read reports of a bride pressing her would be in-laws family for a permanent usable toilet before she had married and shifted there. 


    Again thanks to you. :) :) 


  • nirjhar503813089001470679706

    Well written. Brings out major cracks in a policy which deals with the basic human needs. Something which we have failed over the years. 

  • Debopama-Sinha
    Debopama Sinha

    Couldn't agree more! It's good to see a diachronic study being done on this subject which has been politicised over a considerable amount of time by consecutive ruling parties and millions of rupees being invested in sanitation programmes which show little to no result. Also, I found the last bit of the article quite hilarious about the Indian flair for drama and how it doesn't hurt to be little dramatic "if it comes with some positivity." :P 

    Overall, a very well written article ! :) 

  • Pubali-Basu
    Pubali Basu

    Di, this is a clearly written and thought provoking article. An awesome and brilliant piece of write up. I will definitely look forward to read your next article.

  • noyonikabhattacharya725776001471700069

    Quite a thought-provoking read. Its about time we start demanding sanitation as a fundamental right.

  • noyonikabhattacharya725776001471700069

    waiting for the next article. :))

  • Abhirup-Ghosh
    Abhirup Ghosh

    Great work... Keep up your good work and yeah... Waiting to read your next article...

  • CS-Mrinalini-Chaudhuri
    CS-Mrinalini Chaudhuri

    Very well written..

  • titas.biswas.94137627001474479493

    The conclusion is the clincher. As long as the idea is not internalized, real change is not possible!