All talk, no toilets
It is easier for India’s poor to acquire cell phones than gain access to proper toilets.
It is easier for poor Indian folk to obtain cell phones than access to proper toilets.
THE Mumbai slum of Rafiq Nagar has no clean water for its shacks made of ripped tarp and bamboo. No garbage pickup along the rocky, pocked earth that serves as a road. No power except from haphazard cables strung overhead illegally. And not a single toilet or latrine for its 10,000 people.
Yet nearly every destitute family in the slum has a cell phone.
India is a country where more people have cell phones than access to a toilet, according to the United Nations. It is a country buoyed by a vibrant business world of call centres and software developers, but hamstrung by a bloated government that has failed to deliver the barest of services.
Its estimated growth rate of 8.5% a year is among the highest in the world, but its roads are crumbling.
It offers cheap, world-class medical care to Western tourists at private hospitals, yet has some of the worst child mortality and maternal death rates outside sub-Saharan Africa.
And while tens of millions have benefited from India’s rise, many more remain mired in some of the worst poverty in the world.
Businessman Mukesh Ambani, the world’s fourth-richest person, is just finishing off a new US$1bil (RM3.08bil) skyscraper-house in Mumbai with 27 floors and three helipads, touted as the most expensive home on Earth. Yet farmers still live in shacks of mud and cow dung.
The cell phone frenzy bridges all worlds. Cell phones are sold amid the Calvin Klein and Clinique stores under
A boy making his way to a latrine outside his phones than access to a toilet. the soaring atriums of India’s new malls, and in the crowded markets of its working-class neighbourhoods. Bare shops in the slums sell pre-paid cards next to packets of chewing tobacco, while street hawkers peddle car chargers at traffic lights.
The spartan Beecham’s in New Delhi’s Connaught Place, one of the country’s seemingly ubiquitous mobile phone dealers, is overrun with lunchtime customers of all classes looking for everything from a 35,000 rupee (RM2,435) Blackberry Torch to a basic 1,150 rupee (RM80) Nokia.
There were more than 670 million cell phone connections in India by the end of August, a number that has been growing by close to 20 million a month, according to government figures.
Yet UN figures show that only 366 million Indians have access to a private toilet or latrine, leaving 665 million to defecate in the open.
“At least tap water and sewage disposal – how can we talk about any development without these two fundamental things? How can we talk about development without health and education?” says Anita PatilDeshmukhl, executive director of PUKAR, an organisation that conducts research and outreach in the slums of Mumbai.
India’s leaders say they are sympathetic to the problem. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, an economist credited with unleashing India’s private sector by loosening government regulation, talks about growth that benefits the masses of poor people as well as a burgeoning middle class of about 300 million.
Sonia Gandhi, chief of the ruling Congress Party, has pushed laws guaranteeing a right to food and education, as well as a gargantuan rural jobs programme for nearly 100 million people. But as many as 800 million Indians still live on less than US$2 (RM6.20) a day, even as Mumbai’s stock exchange sits near
Many fear the
“Everybody understands Everybody recognises gap, that this could trips up this country,” Mahindra, vice director of the manufacturing
Private companies that gap, and Tata (RM52) water purifier Mafias provide slum dwellers what wealthy Indians services.
“For every little pay,” says Nusrat maid and single four children on (RM209) a month government for water and a toilet.
The government US$350mil (RM1.078bil) toilets in rural Pathak, the founder Sanitation and Movement, estimates needs about 120 – likely the largest world history.
“Those in power, change the situation,” claims to have low-cost latrines past 40 years.
In the slums more than half 14 million, the great that enterprising built makeshift own.
In Annabhau latrine of corrugated river of sewage and adults wade east Mumbai has
and a single 10 pay toilets for
A boy talking on a cell phone in Mumbai’s Rafiq Nagar slum. (Pic right) Salim, a migrant labourer, making a phone call outside his makeshift home. The cell phone frenzy bridges all classes in India.
(Pic below) Television cables and a receiving dish are seen on the roofs of homes in a Mumbai slum. Many of these houses have no toilets.