Defecation in the open: the root cause?

Food for thought: Lack of education vs lack of awareness

So many of India’s poor defecate in the open. This has been going on for many decades despite some well-meaning government-sponsored programmes to construct or subsidise the construction of toilets/ bathrooms in homes without one. A recent newspaper headline says, tongue in cheek, ‘Half the Indians defecate in the open, but more own a mobile phone.’ [The New Indian Express, March 14, 2012]. True. The Census of India, 2011 has recorded that whereas 63.2% of India’s 246 million households own a telephone, with more than 50% of them owning a mobile phone, only 46.9% of the households have a toilet in their homes. I wonder if anyone has asked whether these households have water to use in their bathrooms. In a country where even to get a pitcher of drinking water is a daily struggle for so many of the poor, where from will they get water to use in the toilet and to keep it clean? So, it’s not a question of ‘lack of education’ among the poor that feeds this practice, as is the popular perception, but ‘lack of awareness’ among the powers that be.

On suicides:

In the papers today: Devaraju, 32 years, an autorickshaw driver, hanged himself when his wife and children were asleep. A habitual drunkard with piling debts, he left a note stating that he was taking recourse to suicide as he “was not a good citizen, nor a good husband, nor a good father.” The hired auto he was driving had been taken back by the owner a week ago as the debts had been due.

Srinivasachari, 42 years, a hotel employee, also hanged himself yesterday as he did not have the wherewithal to repay his debts and his second wife had also divorced him because of this.

Food for the palate: Groundnut [peanut] podi

Fry till crisp and/ or browned on a dry pan: 4 oz groundnut, 2 oz red chillis, a pinch asafoetida, a marble-sized piece of tamarind. Cool, add salt, grind to coarse powder. Eat mixed into cooked rice, with a spot of ghee or oil added to the rice. Or eat as side dish with dosa or idli.


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