By Tabu Agarwal:
“Sanitation is more important than political freedom” – Mahatma Gandhi
You might be surprised to know that till date, a whopping 600 million or 53 percent of India’s population take a dump in the open. Such a practice facilitates the spread of diseases causing illness and even death. The silence around sanitation, a basic human right, can have serious repercussions for human health, equality and dignity.
Hence, with the intention to improve the poor sanitation situation in India, the Flush Mob, a voluntary organization formed in 2015, advocates awareness of the global sanitation crisis. Their aim is to target a larger section of the population especially at the grass root level who still live in inhuman conditions of squalor. Aggressive action is taken in the slum areas by frequent visits, and talking to the local public toilet caretakers. More so, moderate action is taken on the working/service class people (especially men), who conveniently pee outside. Founded by documentary film-maker Saptarshi Roy, the group recently aimed to improve sanitation conditions in India by organising the Delhi Chapter of the global event “The Urgent Run” in Delhi University’s Ramjas College on 15th November 2015. The event, endorsed by UN-Water on behalf of the World Toilet Organization, focused on different aspects of the sanitation crisis by highlighting the issue through compelling art forms like music, photography, dance, puppetry and various forms of street art. Rigzin Deldan, one of the core members of the event said, “With zero financial sponsorship, The Urgent Run Delhi looked very challenging, but the spirit of the energetic volunteers did not die, and through word of mouth publicity, The Flush Mob managed to bring around 2000 people for this event. The response was phenomenal with the school students enjoying the whole day, and learning various ways of safe sanitation along with taking part in various competitions and fun games. It was definitely a success.”
Started in 2014, The Global Urgent Run held to commemorate World Toilet Day (19th November) has so far been successfully held in 13 countries with the flagship event being organised in Singapore and later followed up by places like Germany, the Philippines, Italy, Indonesia, Tanzania, Ghana, Senegal, Mozambique, et cetera. A large amount of participation was witnessed in these Urgent Run events in the first year, and many more were engaged through social media and media activities.
On being asked about how the idea of ‘The Flush Mob’ originated, Saptarshi Roy said, “After meeting Mr Jack Sim, the founder of the World Toilet Organization, I exactly knew how to start what I always wanted to do. He became my biggest inspiration. People used to understand and remember his messages well when they were put across in a funny way. He believed in creating a revolution to make toilets sexy. If not the whole India, me and my super energetic team of volunteers would keep doing small and big things to improve the situation in Delhi & NCR.” The group recently became a part of the popular and lively initiative Raahgiri as well. What makes the working of this organization even more interesting is the fact that it is indeed a creative protest against all issues related to sanitation by performing skits, dance, musical events, et cetera.
The subject of sanitation has been severely neglected on the global development agenda for the longest time. The need of the hour is addressing the sanitation crisis by educating urban and rural communities on the best sanitation practices regarding toilet behaviour, technology and design.
In a recent interview, the founder of the World Toilet Organisation Jack Sim discussed the idea of starting India’s first toilet college. Read more about it here.