Nov 19, 2014

Sustainable Toilets for Babli?

 Narendra Modi jee’s initiatives of Swachha Bharat, Toilet facilities for all… there are so many of them now. Everyone individuals to Corporates, all have joined the wagon. Everyone wants to contribute their part. It has gained a popularity as good as freedom movement and this time its freedom from filth, freedom to live a dignified life. Much appreciated. While this initiative was kicked off lot many companies like Hindustan Unilever Limited ( HUL ) and others joined for the social cause. Like HUL had initiatives driven around it, profit sharing on the product sales (like Rs 5 contributed from each bottle of Domex), Awareness Initiatives, free installation of Junipani Toilets and so on. It’s incredible effort. . I appreciate the management of moving beyond Business and contributing its success to
Click for the Great Cause
community development. I have pledged myself to throw away the imported house cleaners with  bottles of Domex and have also clicked on the site to know more about it…why not do it…it’s for a great cause.

I hail from a village in Bihar and have spent many summer vacations. My grandfather was a small farmer and we had small earning and traded with grains (I can still remember traded a handful of wheat for a sweet in my child hood). Also, sadly I was among the “grand” society of people who defacated in fields, though it was not a compulsion, we had toilets even before my birth. I believe I strongly believe that I am fully aware of the reasons for not having a toilet, thanks to my frequent visits to villages.

When I seat back in an air conditioned room and look at these new wave of initiatives, a question props again and again :
 “In a country like ours, where pride to live with dignity, pride for the society, pride for the state you live in and above all pride for the Country is still to settle in our fellow citizen, investing into building these kind of infrastructure for people is worth? If we are doing it, will we be able to create a sustainable infrastructure?”

Like any investment, a sponsor has to look at many aspects. I strongly believe in analyzing this initiatives, and ask

Why we do not have toilets Today?

Ask this question and we have so many answers to it.
a.       Behavioral Issue :  They are happy the way they have been defacating for generations. When you talk to these people, they would come out with reasons like walking down to a field builds pressure, they would have a clean-open environment and what not. This behavior has to change through education.
b.      Men’s Dominance : Man’s dominance in our society is a curse in one way. Unless these folks are not convinced, they would not take a step. A wall, a Bush, a lamp post or an open field is sufficient for a Man to urinate shamelessly. When this event happens many time throughout the day, they just have to have a need to pass it, they would find a place. Only a zip has to be opened sufficiently. Unless these people are convinced they would not build toilets in their house as they don’t feel the need of it. The same person spends for his Son’s education, paying for a movie and spends heavily for as a dowry. But if he is not convinced he would not build.
c.       No place to Build a Toilet : sitting in an air-conditioned or a well built houses, we think these people happily go out to defacate and are careless. Ask a villager or a slum deweller, he would sadly add that they hardly have a space to sleep. The reason is genuine, since the days of slavery, jamindari, people buily huts and houses to just fit in, live in. Do these people really have a place?
d.      Community toilets can be a solution ?: indeed, a Community Toilet can be an answer. Then why one does not use it. Simple, most of the toilets whether in village, cities or metros are dirty and full of filth, as there is no initiatives to clean it and keep it usable. Have you  seen public toilets where people would urinate just outside the public toilets as they cannot get inside due to its worst maintenance.
e.      False class/caste feeling :This again somewhere relates to Behavioral issues with some fraction as they would not clean their community toilets themselves or even pour water to clean it, as it  is below their dignity or more precisely related to caste and class.     
f.        Community toilets are not sustainable today: there are no supplies of water and also draining of waste is a huge issue.
And many more issues ….. and all points to a reason which is well observed in the society.

When there are so many issues, why an investor, whether a funding company, individual or a govt; should invest money in. May be investor is joining for a Good social Cause. But the question remains 
                    “are we investing in building a social-strategic-sustainable infrastructures”?

If I had to invest I would have built toilets with following in mind:
a.       Community Toilets : for every say 20-25 family there would be only 4-5 toilets. Build this nearest to these clusters. Ladies and small children would have a small distance  to go.
b.      Connected Toilets : All community toilets be connected to water supply system having a pump, an overhead tank and distribution system. This would make a happy experience of going to toilets as they would not have to carry water in their pots to a place.
c.       Cleaning Mechanism: the society pays a small sum or an investor invests in cleaning personnel to keep the same cleaned.
d.      Appoint a service gatekeeper: I see there are so many police personnel in the country, why can’t we have an initiative where police is made as a Service Prefect for an area and he ensures all services in the area are perfectly maintained by Municipality or the village panchayat or any one responsible for the cleanliness in the  area.

Once we build happy experience in the community, slowly the behavior of people will change. They would leave fields and bushes to grow healthy vegetables . Change in behavior of the community will only help building a social-strategic-sustainable infrastructures. Then only we can ensure Babli gets a clean toilet and gets a happy experience in life.

Penned for 
Buiilding a Great Community : read on Toilet Academy click it on.....
domex brought in smiling faces ... 

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