Even though our Indian mythology says that cleanliness brings delight and well-being, India ranks first in the list of countries where open defecation is rampant. According to the 2015 report by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), more than half of the rural population (52.1%) of the country still defecates in open.
Swach Bharat Abhiyan movement launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 aims to have India free from open defecation by October 2, 2019, which is the 150th birth anniversary of the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi. But years are required to turn the current condition into the dream condition, which is India having zero open defecation.
Open defecation is a major health and sanitation problem for India; these problems are more common in rural areas as the number of people defecating in open is higher than those doing the same in urban areas. It has made diarrhoea deaths rampant. UNICEF says, every year 188,000 children under the age of five die of diarrhoea in India. Open defecation is not only causing health hazards but is also putting people in danger of physical attacks, snake bites or some serious attacks by wild animals. In 2014, two girls aged 12 and 14 were found hanging from a mango tree at Katra, Sahadatganj village. Allegedly, they were gang-raped and lynched. This happened because they had no toilets at home and were forced to defecate in the open. Women have to lose their personal dignity and also risk their safety when they don’t have toilets at home. After this incident, Sulabh, an NGO working in the area of sanitation, installed 100 public toilets in the village. But this problem has become so major that 100 toilets are not enough to reach the goal.
To be an open defecation-free nation, it is required to first make the people aware of the problems which they suffer from due to this practice. The government is doing it through awareness campaigns, media exposures, and non-commercial ads. But, India is a place where one in two people defecate in open which is a huge shame although. As of August 2016, only 17 of the 650 districts have been declared open defecation free by the government. The records itself shows that it is an extremely difficult objective. Now, Indian movie actors are also proving a helping hand in this undertaking. Veteran actors like Salman Khan, Vidya Balan, Amir Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and many others are part of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Recently, a movie “Toilet-Ek Prem Katha” directed by Shree Narayan Singh has also been made on this issue to let people know the consequences of open defecation faced by women.
Anyhow, the government is trying hard to achieve this goal. Many NGOs are also associated with this cause. It is the duty of every citizen to make India a state which has completely eliminated open defecation. Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Haryana, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim have been declared as free of the menace, and the number is constantly increasing. Though the pace has so far been slow, we are sure that India will eventually reach there. Trite but true, as you know, ‘slow and steady always wins the race ‘.