Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Toilets Can Change India!

Earlier this year, I started a campaign (Toilets for Tamil Nadu) to improve sanitation facilities in rural Tamil Nadu. The encouraging response I received from my friends and colleagues prompted me to take the initiative further and run another fundraiser (Clean Water for Tamil Nadu) for rural Trichy. I was worried my efforts wouldn't get much traction and the buzz would fizzle out in a few weeks. But I was wrong. There are brands that are taking this cause very seriously. I am talking about Domex here.

Before I tell you what Domex is doing, I wish to acquaint you with a grave problem that is faced by many villages and shanties (in cities) in India - the lack of basic sanitary facilities. Several homes cannot afford (and some choose not to prioritize) to build the cheapest toilet for their families. Defecation by most of these disadvantaged households is undertaken "out in the open". This is shocking, but the reality we cannot turn a blind eye to! Open defecation not only reflects poorly on a country that dreams of being a superpower, but also poses some dangers. Let me tell you what defecating in the open really entails:-

1. People have to walk miles in search of a place that provides them privacy. This mostly means jungles or places surrounded by trees or bushes, or perhaps a land away from the village premise.

2. Jungles can be dangerous in the presence of wild animals. Can you imagine the fear in the hearts of the people who not only have to undertake the arduous task of walking all the way to a desolate place but also keep an eye out for the odd snake?

3. Women are especially vulnerable to the perils of open defecation. In addition to warding off animals, they also have to keep themselves safe from eve teasers and rogue men  on the prowl. The recent rape case in Badaun could be avoided if the girls' family had a toilet at home.

4. Using the fields has the other danger of exposing oneself to several diseases. Excreta-laden fields are breeding grounds for insects that spread umpteen lethal diseases (if the growing number of dengue deaths are anything to go by).

There is a common misconception that the lack of toilets are only prevalent in villages. If we look at cities, we will see shanties lining almost every other highrise. Most of these shanties house hundreds of families and only 1 cursory bathroom is available to all. The most common recourse is for people to station their children on the open drains and use those as toilets. These sights are common at almost every place in Mumbai... even the highways. I want you to watch this video before I talk about a way out:-

Is there a solution to all of this? The good news is - YES! Toilets aren't very expensive. It takes about Rs.30,000/- to build a fully function lavatory with a water connection. However, this amount is out of reach for most of the Indian population. This is why Domex has taken on the #ToiletForBabli initiative to make toilets accessible to all. They are starting this project in Maharashtra and Odisha. You too can bring about a change in the lives of millions of kids. All you need to do is “click” on the “Contribute Tab” on www.domex.in and Domex will contribute Rs.5 on your behalf to eradicate open defecation, thereby helping kids like Pappu live a dignified life.

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