By Nikita Rajwade:
‘In health, there is freedom. Health is the first of all liberties.’
— Henri-Frederic Amiel
UNICEF statistics say that nearly two and a half billion people live without access to improved sanitation across the world, while over a million others are forced to defecate in open areas and fields because they have no facilities at all.
Sanitation is nothing but preventing humans from coming in contact with wastes that are hazardous, thereby improving overall health standards. Hazardous/ toxic substances include human and animal faeces, agricultural and industrial wastes, etc.
It is indeed very shaming to know that India, as per international standards, spends only a measly amount in trying to make the country’s sanitation better. India comprises of 665 million people who defecate openly in fields, grounds and other areas. Nearly 88 percent of people suffering from diarrhoea die due to poor hygiene, lack of proper sanitation and drinking water. While there is a certain truth in the fact that the twenty-first century has seen the Government allocate more funds to sanitation, the growing demand for Â a cleaner India has unveiled a need for a substantial amount more for all the sanitation goals to be achieved.
Delhi, the capital of India, the storehouse of culture and densely-populated, is without doubt amongst the dirtiest places in the country. The underground of this metro sees a complex network of sewages that overflow more often than not, and where men are employed to clean the toxic waste. The law forbids the employment of men for such tasks until and unless there is an emergency, but as Rupa Jha, a reporter from BBC has rightly said — “Every day seems to be an emergency in the Delhi sewers. The underground sewers of any city, for that matter, contain high amounts of toxic substances such as potentially harmful gases and other waste that these cleaners must remove with their hands, which are supposed to be adorned with the utterly inadequate rubber gloves provided by the government.” Statistics provide a horrendous picture of the life expectancy of these human sewage cleaners. It has been seen that most or all of the latter live almost ten years lesser than an average Indian citizen does. Most of these workers belong to the untouchable castes and do not find employment elsewhere.
Rivers like the Yamuna and Ganga that have been considered holy for the longest time in Indian history are now no more than liquid death traps, their purity corrupted by half-charred human bodies and humongous amounts of harmful bacteria that could easily infest many people with cholera and other diseases.
The lack of clean bathrooms or any bathrooms at all, has been observed in schools all over the nation. Little children are then forced to use free spaces on fields, or areas enshrouded by bushes on roads to heed to nature’s call.
Is it fair for seventy percent of India’s population to suffer from diseases just because the government didn’t care enough provide them with clean drinking water? Is it right for them to be resigned to the fact that the government will not do much to relieve them and rescue them from the hell their lives have become?
If the Delhi government thought the Captain of the Indian Cricket team worthy enough of being awarded Two whopping Crores of rupees after the recent World Cup victory, is it just to undermine the worth of a common man in the process?
Are any of us less precious to the country than a cricketer or a politician? Well, it seems that way because the country is witnessing thousands of deaths, most of it caused by the sheer inefficiency of the Government in providing the basic necessities of life to the helpless aam junta. When will the people who hold the country in their palms realise that life and living isn’t just about the standard ‘Roti, Kapda, Makaan’ anymore? They need to understand, to open eyes that have been closed off deliberately for so long to the real world and make sure that the least they do is improve and revolutionalise the sewage treatment systems in India. Effective sewage-treatment is no human’s job, and should remain as such. More funds should be channelized into purifying the water of all the rivers in India, and in setting up basic toilet facilities at all possible places in both rural and urban areas of the nation. As the government in a democratic nation, this is the least the Indian Government can do.
The Karnataka Legislative Assembly boasts of a sign that says to the world, ‘Government work is God’s work’. I say, it is no wonder that we have so many atheists in the country.