By Chandan Wadhwa:
The problem of basic sanitation facilities in the world’s second most populous country is not unknown. It is rather an insult to the injury because even after sixty-five years of independence, India is still laggard in the provision of basic amenities to the people. This menace of improper sanitation is apparent in the government-run schools in both rural and urban areas. India is caught in a bureaucratic trap as it has failed to provide both quality public education and adequate infrastructure which is pertinent with the lack of toilets and drinking-water facilities.
According to the latest study by UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation, Hygiene (WASH), nearly thirty million school children in the country have no access to toilets, which is a mind-boggling figure in itself. This in particular is a major deterrent for girls attending those schools. Thus, immediate corrective measures in order to deal with this obnoxious situation are largely overdue due to the government’s procrastination. This has resulted in less number of girls turning up in schools as parents are reluctant to send them to schools without toilets.
The Right to Education Act (RTE) requires all the schools to have separate toilets for boys and girls and adequate safe drinking-water facilities. Hence, the Supreme Court (SC) outrightly gave a decision regarding the same and stated that the ‘‘denial of these basic amenities is violation of right to free and compulsory education to the children under Article 21-A’’. Though the proportion of schools having toilets has increased from fifty percent to seventy-five percent in the last five years, only sixty percent of schools have girls’ toilets. These steps taken by the Supreme Court of India just reconciles the importance of education for girls in our society.
On the social front, an educated girl forms an integral part in developing the value system of her child when she becomes a mother herself and on the economic front, an educated girl will help in keeping a lid on the population she will be well aware of the pros and cons thus pressing on economic prosperity. Hence, she will have a positive spillover effect on her family members and the society. The education imbibed in her will be an indispensible tool to tackle even the sternest tests of life.
Therefore, the government must act proactively and lubricate the system so that the transfer of funds is swifter. The process should be more transparent to cross-check the delivery of allocated funds and make sure that it is used to meet the correct ends. Meanwhile, the government should be inspired by the actions of Mr Rajeev Kher, the CEO and MD of India’s first ever professional portable sanitation company and install portable toilets in all the schools which lack this basic facility. It has a fleet of more than 1000 plus toilets and appropriate suction vehicles with high-end communication and technology back up and a GPS tracking system. These should be followed after the construction of permanent toilets in a given time frame and the government should refrain from being tardy in the execution of the same.