If you’re somebody committed to ending open defecation in India, then it certainly is an exciting time to be alive. The Indian Express reports that the Panchkula region of northern India will be free of open defecation by April 15, according to Deputy Commissioner Mandeep Singh Brar .
The method chosen to get people to go to the bathroom indoors in Panchkula is an interesting one. Government officials set up a workshop in a local Hindu temple, and recruited 101 so-called “motivators” from the local region. These motivators’ job is to use psychological tools they learn at the workshop to go around convincing rural villagers that the toilet is the best place to do their business. Local school principals, teachers, and students were invited to the workshop as well, in order to propagate the message further.
Officials chose to take the social-pressure route after other means of combatting the problem have yielded disappointing results. Subsidies have been provided in the region to construct public toilets, and toilets have indeed been built, but residents were still opting to go outside. Census data shows that in 2011, 80% of the region had access to reliable public indoor plumbing, but that 70% of residents weren’t using it. The explanation for this, according to the government, is that “people are aware that it is not good to go for open defecation, but they do not realise that by doing it, they are making the environment unhealthy.”
I, for one, am not totally convinced that informing those who prefer the great outdoors of their environmental impact will itself be an effective remedy. After all, appeals to environmental friendliness seldom work in educated portions of the globe, let alone rural India. Environmental awareness is only one aspect of the program, which has reported convincing results in other regions. Similar initiatives have succeeded in the Indore district of Madhya Pradesh province and Bikaner of Rajasthan, which are now 100% open defecation free.
In related news, the International Cricket Council and UNICEF have teamed up to educate Indian children on sanitation and toilet use. Cricket is the most popular sport in India, and by setting up clinics where Indian children may learn to play their favorite sport while being taught to use indoor restrooms at the same time, UN workers believe they can instill this important practice into the Indian youth.
“The aim is to harness the enormous popularity and appeal of cricket in this country to spread the word about why everyone should use a toilet.” reports UNICEF’s India representative Louis George Arsenault, “we can achieve this if we come together as a team – then we will see real progress.”
Open defecation takes some of its most serious effects on children, who are often exposed to unclean fecal matter outdoors, and who put things in their mouth without washing their hands. About 40% of Indian children experience stunted growth, with exposure to harmful bacteria associated with feces being one of its chief causes.
At the cricketing clinics, kids get to meet some of their on-field heroes, household names like Yuvaraj Sing, Dinesh Karthik, and Rishi Dhawan, who demonstrate handwashing, play cricket and toilet-themed cricket games with them. A thrilling experience for the youngsters, no doubt.
I had some nice pictures but this school’s IT department insists on using Internet Explorer, which is something like a steaming pile of Raj Patel’s shit sitting on a garbage heap, so you don’t get to see them.