Posted on December 8, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

It is really unfortunate that only after more than 60 years of independence that we as a country have taken to the import of making India clean and hygienic, thereby making it a better place for all. It is unfortunate because cleanliness should have been on the top of our priorities but discussions on hygiene and sanitation are treated as taboos or something that only concerns the government and the poorest of the poor. Whilst it is true that in a country where most people don’t even have access to the basic necessities of life, hygiene and sanitation get relegated to the background and the state even in its latest avatar as a provider of ‘inclusive growth’ does not show the requisite will force to provide a cleaner, safer and a better country.

Students of Economics know the distinction between ‘economic development’ and ‘economic growth’. Economic development in short, means all round development that includes improvement in non-economic indicators that include hygiene and sanitation along with economic improvements. On the other hand, economic growth has a relatively narrow connotation, concerned only with the economic performance of a country measured in terms of economic indicators like Gross National Product (GNP) or Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Growth is necessary for economic development while growth alone should not be construed as development. Growth results in higher production and greater levels of consumption that can improve the standards of living, ultimately leading to the cherished objective of development.

The policy makers after independence gave emphasis to economic growth having their confidence in the philosophy of ‘trickle down’ wherein the benefits of higher levels of production would percolate down to the lowest strata of the society. In this process, basic needs of the people like hygiene and sanitation were simply ignored. The so-called ‘direct action’ against poverty launched in the aftermath of the failure of the trickle down approach, did not sadly include the need for proper hygiene and sanitation.

The change in the course of the economic decision making in the country since 1991 resulted in the greater scope for the private sector. With the gradual reduction in the role of the state, things like drinking water and basic hygiene and sanitation measures have become no one’s concern. This is where our policy makers and experts have failed. Development goals have to proceed from the bottom, literally from the drain. It is not the produce that matters but the quality of life that in the long run what really matters.

It is stated that charity begins at home and my opinion is that charity should also include the respect for the hygiene and sanitation of fellow human beings. I find it extremely upsetting that people taking great care of their homes while making things unclean and dirty for others. The garbage from my home finds its resting place in front of the house of my neighbour. My neighbour does not hesitate to take revenge. The remains of the non-vegetarian dish of last night is thrown away in my backyard raising the hackles of my parents who are firm believers in the vegetarian way of living.

The lack of dust bins is a common problem and if there are dust bins, we don’t like to use them. Many times, I have come across the site of a dust bin lying empty on the street while it is crowded by waste and garbage. The next aspect is the emptying of the dust bins and the eventual disposal of the garbage. Now we are greeted by the stinking mountains of garbage while entering any city or town.

Coming to hygiene and sanitation, I feel compelled to talk about the millions who defecate out in the open not due to habit but due to the lack of any alternative. In the rural areas the situation is not just limited to issues of hygiene as in many instances crimes against women take place when the women go out to answer the call of nature. Of course, there are few amongst us who defecate out in the open with a pride associated with the closeness to nature !

The rivers which sustain life in various ways feel the brunt of the waste thrown into them. Water of rivers from the Ganges down to the tiny rivulet near my home town have become polluted, rendering it unusable for use by humans, plants and animals.
I come from a part of the country where in the monsoon season there are regular outbreaks of cholera and diarrohea largely due to the consumption of contaminated and the polluted water of the rivers.

The outbreak of plague in Surat about 20 years ago or the regular occurrences of cholera, dengue etc in different parts of the country are essentially due to the lack of basic sanitation facilities.

It is not only in the interest of the country but also in the interest of us that each one of us becomes involved in the process of making India a clean nation. We must not only aim for a better life for ourselves but also a cleaner life for the future generations. Whenever there are demands for a greater role of the state, there is the use of the term ‘resource crunch’. For a country that takes pride in sending spacecraft. surely can get the priorities right. Moreover, the prevention is not only better but a whole lot cheaper than the cure.

This process just does not involve the wielding of the broom, but the initial cleaning of our heads. There is an immediate need to stop the chalta hai attitude as far as things related to hygiene and sanitation are concerned.

I am proud to have this opportunity to be associated with the ‘Banega Swachh India’ initiative launched by NDTV in collaboration with Dettol and the great Amitabh Bachchan.


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