San­i­ta­tion is Equal to Sal­va­tion

India Today - - WINNING - by Ku­mar An­shu­man

There are few oc­ca­sions in In­dian pol­i­tics when BJP and the Congress are on the same page. The ses­sion on Tem­ples vs Toi­lets was one such in­stance of ca­ma­raderie. Union Min­is­ter for Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Jairam Ramesh set the ball rolling by urg­ing that san­i­ta­tion needs to be­come a na­tional ob­ses­sion. “Around 60 per cent of the women in the coun­try defe­cate in the open. Like cricket and Bol­ly­wood, san­i­ta­tion should be a na­tional ob­ses­sion,” he said.

Mad­hya Pradesh Chief Min­is­ter Shivraj Singh Chouhan agreed with Ramesh on the is­sue of san­i­ta­tion. He pre­sented a ‘clean­li­ness is god­li­ness’ ar­gu­ment that took the dis­cus­sion fur­ther. “Spir­i­tua- lity and san­i­ta­tion go hand in hand. There can’t be a com­par­i­son be­tween them,” he said. Chouhan spoke of schemes in his state for women em­pow­er­ment and Maryada, a plan for toi­lets in ev­ery house.

Fire­brand BJP leader

Uma Bharti, a for­mer Mad­hya Pradesh chief min­is­ter seen by many as Chouhan’s po­lit­i­cal ri­val, also de­cided to play along. Heap­ing praise on Ramesh for his stint as en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter, she raised the is­sue of toi­lets for women in big­ger cities such as Delhi and Mum­bai, and sug­gested that there should be toi­lets for women labour­ers at ev­ery con­struc­tion site. But it was the founder of World Toi­let Or­gan­i­sa­tion, Sin­ga­pore, the af­fa­ble, earnest Jack Sim, who gave the de­bate a spin by talk­ing about mak­ing toi­lets al­lur­ing. “We have to cre­ate a revo­lu­tion to make toi­lets sexy,” he said. He sug­gested that cor­po­rate houses should build toi­lets in In­dian homes as part of their cor­po­rate so- cial re­spon­si­bil­ity. “Why not?” he asked, “Af­ter all, people spend three years of their lives in toi­lets!”

Pho­to­graphs by RO­HIT CHAWLA

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