Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wrong priorities?

The Hindu, Sunday Magazine, July 27, 2008

The Other Half

One out of every two persons in the world compelled to defecate in the open is an Indian. This is one of several unsavoury facts brought out in a recent report by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF. According to the report, out of the 1.2 billion people who defecate in the open worldwide because they have no access to toilets, more than half are Indian. An astounding 667 million people in this country have no option but to defecate in the open, a country that would like people to believe that it is on the cusp of becoming a global economic giant.

Why then does sanitation remain a subject that is accorded a relatively low priority compared to many other needs, including water and energy? Could it be because for the middle classes, policy makers, those who live in permanent housing with built-in toilets, sanitation is not an issue? But the lack of water and electricity is? Could it be because the problem is essentially that of the poor and the homeless? Could it also be because the worst affected are poor women?

These are questions that come to my mind almost every day when I walk past a woman with two young children. She is a rag picker. She has permission to sort through the garbage of the large government colony in the area. Usually, she sleeps near the garbage bin. Recently, she was asked to move. So she has found a spot in the colony where she sleeps surrounded by a few plastic bags that contain her meagre belongings.

(To read the rest of the article, click on the link above)

No comments: