Sanitation is Equal to Salvation
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!”