Toilet Training Must Be Enforced

In India a large number of people still defecate in the open. Conservative estimate suggest that the number of people in India that defecate in the open can be as high as 500 million. As one enters any major city by train in the morning, one can see people attending natures call in the open by railway track. Such a sight is not only an eye sore, it is unhygineic and gives a bad impression of the country.

As Indian economy grows, more and more people are migrating to cities in search of livelihood. Many of these people do not have access to or afford basic facilities that citizens in other countries take for granted. In the rural India on the other hand many people are forced by habit and preference chose to defecate in the open, despite having a toilet at home. So there is a need to change mindset of Indians so more and more of them use toilets.

Government of India has started aggressively to build toilets and engage in advertisement campaign to extol the virtues of using toilets. Some state governments have enacted law that unless one has a toilet at home and have a basic education (class X for men and class V for women and backward), they will not be eligible for contesting village level election. I think, given the high rate of illiteracy (India has a very high number of adult illiteracy) and a very large number of people not using toilet, a government effort will be applauded.

Many groups have protested, outlook magazine devoted an issue and New York Times published an article, claiming the move to be undemocratic and will very likely put many poor people and women at a disadvantage. I find such an argument facetious. Sometime when people do not listen, there has to be a mechanism to force them to adhere to it. Otherwise why penalize people who do not wear seat belt? It is difficult to understand in this day and age how would a person lead development projects and teach villagers importance of sanitation and education if the person himself defecates in the open and remains uneducated. It is true, education and a latrine does not make a person a perfect panchayat. So does a medical degree does not make a person a good doctor. But a medical degree is the basic qualification society has accepted before we discuss our problem with a physician.

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