Monday, September 29, 2014

India's Modi Talks Toilets

"We initiated “Clean INDIA” program – I don’t know whether it’s a big thing or a small thing- but I am determined to build toilets on a large scale, People ask me “what’s your vision, big vision?” I tell them I got to this stage but I started out selling tea……I can think only small things for small people, but these are big things for small people, these will change the future of India"

Prime Minister Narendra Modi  Speaking at Madison Square Garden, New York September 29, 2014

Can’t we just make arrangements for toilets for the dignity of our mothers and sisters? Brothers and Sisters, somebody might feel that a big festival like 15th August is an occasion to talk big.....Brothers and sisters, you must be getting shocked to hear the Prime Minister speaking of cleanliness and the need to build toilets from the ramparts of the Red Fort. Brothers and sisters, I do not know how my speech is going to be criticised and how will people take it. But this is my heartfelt conviction. I come from a poor family, I have seen poverty. The poor need respect and it begins with cleanliness. I, therefore, have to launch a ‘clean India’ campaign from 2nd October this year and carry it forward in 4 years. I want to make a beginning today itself and that is – all schools in the country should have toilets with separate toilets for girls. Only then our daughters will not be compelled to leave schools midway. Our parliamentarians utilizing MPLAD fund are there. I appeal to them to spend it for constructing toilets in schools for a year. The government should utilize its budget on providing toilets. I call upon the corporate sector also to give priority to the provision of toilets in schools with your expenditure under Corporate Social Responsibility. This target should be finished within one year with the help of state governments and on the next 15th August, we should be in a firm position to announce that there is no school in India without separate toilets for boys and girls.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Speaking at Red Fort, New Delhi August 15, 2014

After blogging about it (here and here) and suffering nationalistic Indians' slings and arrows for years, it's refreshing for this blogger to see a top Indian leader finally acknowledge the serious problem of the lack of hygiene in India.

How Serious is the Problem?

India's rivers have been turned into open sewers by 638 million Indians without access to toilets, according to rural development minister Jairam Ramesh. He was reacting a UNICEF report that says Indians make up 58% of the world population which still practices open defection, and the sense of public hygiene in India is the worst in South Asia and the world.

India(638m) is followed by Indonesia (58m), China (50m), Ethiopia (49m), Pakistan (48m), Nigeria (33m) and Sudan (17m). In terms of percentage of each country's population resorting to the unhygienic practice, Ethiopia tops the list with 60%, followed by India 54%, Nepal 50%, Pakistan 28%, Indonesia 26%, and China 4%.

18 percent of urban India still defecates in open while the percentage of rural India is as high as 69 percent of the population. It is the key reason why India carries among the highest infectious disease burdens in the world.

The number of open defecators in rural India alone is more than twice those in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, according to a report by DFID, the UK's Department for International Development.

Impact of the Problem: 

The World Bank has estimated that open defecation costs India $54 billion per year or $48 per head. This is more than the Government of India’s entire budget for health.

The UNICEF report says that with only one more years to go until 2015, a major leap in efforts and investments in sanitation is needed to reach the targets of Millennium Development Goals.

New research has found that poor sanitation is a major cause of stunted children in India. These children’s bodies divert energy and nutrients away from growth and brain development to prioritize infection-fighting survival,” said Jean Humphrey, a professor of human nutrition at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in an interview with New York Times. “When this happens during the first two years of life, children become stunted. What’s particularly disturbing is that the lost height and intelligence are permanent.”

The UN says a child raised in India is far more likely to be malnourished than one from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe or Somalia, the planet’s poorest countries. Stunting affects 65 million Indian children under the age of 5, including a third of children from the country’s richest families.


Mr. Modi is going beyond just recognizing the problem of lack of sanitation in his country; he is using his bully pulpit to push for allocating public and private resources to address it. He is setting a good example for other nations in South Asia, including Pakistan, to follow.

Here's a video of Modi speaking at Madison Square Garden in New York:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India Leads the World in Open Defecation

Fixing Sanitation Crisis in India

Food, Clothing and Shelter in India and Pakistan

Heavy Disease Burdens in South Asia

Peepli Live Destroys Indian Myths

India After 63 Years of Independence

Poverty Across India 2011

India and Pakistan Contrasted


Anonymous said...

What you are concluding to is slightly misplaced. Other countries dont have to learn from India. Indians have to learn to live hygenically. Yes while other politicians from india and abroad can learn from modi to help citizens address important problems rather than wasting citizens money, i am pretty sure that the horse has to ultimately drink the water.

A more important issue to address also is the use of technology to address sanitation problems. Ultimately it is one thing to not defecate in open, but it is also important that the sewerage is not emptied into land and drinking water bodies without treatment.

The cycle is yet to be completed.

Meanwhile one of the basic point that i want to tell you is that moderation of comment is permitted only if it is offensive or abuse but not because it does not confer to your point of view. Most of my comments are moderated, just because i have a different point of view.

All the best

Majumdar said...

Prof Riaz ul Haq sb,

Mr. Modi is very active on the blogosphere and I wud not be surprised if he and his team regularly tune onto your website or if that your writings wud have influenced his recent views on sanitation. It is much to be hoped that he is successful in his mission, in which you can take some credit in this regard.

I have very high hopes from both Mr. Modi and Mr. Sharif and hopefully both will be pull out their respective countries from the deep malaise they are in.

A very happy Id to you and your family in advance.


Shams said...

At 2 kg per shitter per day, 1.2 billion Indians make a one billion ton shit per year problem for Modi. Just wondering why so much shit has not sunk India into the Indian Ocean yet.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "The cycle is yet to be completed"


Western style flush toilet and sewage system will be extremely expensive for India where water is already scarce and the sewerage systems too expensive to build.

New types of toilets like composting toilets will be needed. Dr. Pathak's Sulabh has one and Gates Foundation is funding research to create an efficient toilet for poor countries.

A team headed by Professor Sohail Khan, a British Pakistani researcher at Loughborough University, won $60,000 second place prize for developing a toilet that converts human waste into biological charcoal, which can be burned, and clean water.

Riaz Haq said...

Times of India demolishes myths about Indian-American achievements:

On Monday, the Indian government itself consecrated the oft-circulated fiction as fact in Parliament, possibly laying itself open to a breach of privilege. By relaying to Rajya Sabha members (as reported in The Times of India) a host of unsubstantiated and inflated figures about Indian professionals in US, the government also made a laughing stock of itself.

The figures provided by the Minister of State for Human Resource Development Purandeshwari included claims that 38 per cent of doctors in US are Indians, as are 36 per cent of NASA scientists and 34 per cent of Microsoft employees.

There is no survey that establishes these numbers, and absent a government clarification, it appears that the figures come from a shop-worn Internet chain mail that has been in circulation for many years. Spam has finally found its way into the Indian parliament dressed up as fact.

Attempts by this correspondent over the years to authenticate the figures have shown that it is exaggerated, and even false. Both Microsoft and NASA say they don't keep an ethnic headcount. While they acknowledge that a large number of their employees are of Indian origin, it is hardly in the 30-35 per cent range.

In a 2003 interview with this correspondent, Microsoft chief Bill Gates guessed that the number of Indians in the engineering sections of the company was perhaps in the region of 20 per cent, but he thought the overall figure was not true. NASA workers say the number of Indians in the organization is in the region of 4-5 per cent, but the 36 per cent figure is pure fiction.

The number of physicians of Indian-origin in the US is a little easier to estimate. The Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has 42,000 members, in addition to around 15,000 medical students and residents. There were an estimated 850,000 doctors in the US in 2004. So, conflating the figures, no more than ten per cent of the physicians in US maybe of Indian-origin - and that includes Indian-Americans - assuming not everyone is registered with AAPI.

These numbers in themselves are remarkable considering Indians constitute less than one per cent of the US population. But in its enthusiasm to spin the image of the successful global Indian to its advantage, the government appears to have milked a long-discredited spam - an effort seen by some readers as the work of a lazy bureaucrat and an inept minister.

Unknown said...


Mr Modi recognized this issue and is pushing for a solution -- unlike the situation in Pakistan where nobody cares on any issue.

He is not ashamed to stating this problem - from the ramparts of Red Fort to the White House..

Riaz Haq said...

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered his bureaucrats to come in to work to clean up their offices — including toilets — on this week's national holiday to celebrate Mahatma Gandhi's birthday.

The move is part of a nationwide cleanliness drive to be launched by Modi on the holiday Thursday, with the premier himself expected to take a broom to the capital's notoriously dirty streets.

The initiative has sparked grumblings by officials from India's infamously slow and vast bureaucracy who say the request to work, although theoretically voluntary, cannot be ignored.

Modi has cracked down on officials since storming to power in May elections, demanding they turn up to work at 9 am and paying unannounced visits to government offices.

“We have already been turning up on time and working till late (since Modi took office). Now we have been asked to wield the broom and we might as well do so,” one reluctant official told AFP in New Delhi on Tuesday.

“My children are upset that I will have to go to the office even on a national holiday,” he said, requesting anonymity.

But another official was decidedly upbeat, saying it was an important step in ridding India of its entrenched class system in which only those from low castes cleaned up waste.

“It is an unprecedented sanitation movement,” the officer in the power ministry told AFP.

“Wielding the broom is a powerful symbol. It shows that no work is mean and that each one of us should be responsible for cleaning up our waste."

The drive is partly aimed at sprucing up government offices which are often littered with rubbish, stink of urine and have walls dirtied with dried spit.

Advertisements in all major dailies on Tuesday urged residents of Delhi to “come forward in large numbers” for the programme's launch.

Sanitation was very close to the heart of independence hero Gandhi who used to clean latrines himself at a time when there were no flush toilets in the country.

Modi has stressed the importance of sanitation in almost all his public speeches since his May victory, vowing to make India clean by 2019, to coincide with the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi.

Roughly half of India's population do not have toilets in their homes and must defecate in the open, a health and safety problem that Modi has also vowed to fix.

Anonymous said...

Riaz "A team headed by Professor Sohail Khan, a British Pakistani researcher at Loughborough University, won $60,000 second place prize for developing a toilet that converts human waste into biological charcoal, which can be burned, and clean water. "

Time for Dr Sohail Khan to contact PM Modi to clinch the deal.!!

Anonymous said...

Also if Dr. Sohail Khan succeeds India will have a renewal charcoal base which can be used as natural fertiliser and as biogas feedstock

Riaz Haq said...

The WaSH Performance Index is the sum of country performance values in the following components: water access, water equity, sanitation access, and sanitation equity.
Among most top performing countries, neither water nor sanitation dominated the overall Index value, suggesting improvements in water and sanitation do not necessarily come at the expense of the other.
Among the most populated countries in the world, Pakistan, China, and Nigeria were top performers (ranked 5, 11, and 18 respectively). Conversely, Russia, the Philippines and India were bottom performers (ranked 72, 83, and 92 respectively).
The WaSH Performance Index is the sum of country performance values in the following components: water access, water equity, sanitation access, and sanitation equity. Each of the components ranges from -1 to 1 meaning the overall WaSH index value can range from -4 to 4.

Top and bottom performing countries
The top ten and bottom ten countries are a surprising group. Low levels of coverage are often clustered in certain regions – for example, water access is low in sub-Saharan Africa while sanitation access is low in South and Southeast Asia. In contrast, performance values appear to be spread widely within regions. This suggests that country-specific factors, such as the enabling environment, may be driving performance and regions as a whole are not constrained to perform poorly.

Among countries with top ten values, two are low income, five are lower middle income and three are upper middle income. Among countries with bottom ten values, three are low income, five are lower middle income, and two are upper middle income. Top performing countries are located in all world regions with the most from South Asia (n = 4) and Sub-Saharan Africa (n = 2). Among bottom ten countries, three are from East Asia and the Pacific, and four are from Sub-Saharan Africa. A few countries are under-represented in the JMP data sets that we used, notably highly industrialized countries with very high coverage rates (as data may not be collected) and small island developing nations (as few have nationally representative household surveys).

Among the most populated countries in the world, Pakistan, China, and Nigeria were top performers (ranked 5, 11, and 18 respectively). Russia, the Philippines and India were bottom performers (ranked 72, 83, and 92 respectively).

Trends in performance
Tables 8 and 9 show the trend of components for the top ten and bottom ten countries. Six of the top ten have improving trends over time for all components. Conversely, seven of the bottom ten have an unchanged or deteriorating trend for all components. Tables 6 through 9 show that among most top performing countries, neither water nor sanitation components dominated the overall Index value, suggesting improvements in water and sanitation do not necessarily come at the expense of the other.

Riaz Haq said...

#India: inherently unhygienic? #Indian writer touches third rail via @Reuters

My Indian friends and I joke around a lot about me as the typical white American guy visiting India. Cows! Con men! Colors! Most people I’ve met in India have restricted their reactions to my westerner-in-the-east experiences to gentle teasing. When I stuck a picture of a man urinating in public on my Facebook page, calling it one more picture of what you see everywhere you go in India, people weren’t as patient. What was I doing? Insulting the nation? Focusing on the ugly because it’s what all the westerners do when they visit India? Why does India provoke such visceral reactions in visitors?

Public urination, public defecation, dirt, garbage, filth, the poor living on the street — talking about these things, even acknowledging that they’re in front of your face, risks making your hosts unhappy, and possibly angry. It’s the third rail of India, and the voltage can be lethal. That’s why I was surprised when B.S. Raghavan decided to touch it with all 10 fingers.

Raghavan’s column in The Hindu Business Line newspaper begins with this headline: Are Indians by nature unhygienic?

Consider these excerpts:

From time to time, in their unguarded moments, highly placed persons in advanced industrial countries have burst out against Indians for being filthy and dirty in their ways of life. A majority of visitors to India from those countries complain of “Delhi belly” within a few hours of arrival, and some fall seriously ill.

There is no point in getting infuriated or defensive about this. The general lack of cleanliness and hygiene hits the eye wherever one goes in India — hotels, hospitals, households, work places, railway trains, airplanes and, yes, temples. Indians think nothing of spitting whenever they like and wherever they choose, and living in surroundings which they themselves make unliveable by their dirty habits. …

Open defecation has become so rooted in India that even when toilet facilities are provided, the spaces round temple complexes, temple tanks, beaches, parks, pavements, and indeed, any open area are covered with faecal matter. …

Even as Indians, we are forced to recoil with horror at the infinite tolerance of fellow Indians to pile-ups of garbage, overflowing sewage, open drains and generally foul-smelling environs.

There’s plenty more that you can read in that story, but I’ll direct you to the article. I’ll also ask you some questions:

Some people say you shouldn’t point out these problems, and that every country has problems. Do you agree with this statement? Why?
Does anyone disagree with Raghavan’s descriptions of these sights and smells?
Is this even a problem? Or should people get used to it?
Should visitors, especially ones from countries where people are generally wealthier, say nothing, and pretend that they don’t see unpleasant things?
As for me, I can say this: I got used to it, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t notice it. Indians notice it too. Otherwise, people wouldn’t suggest public shaming campaigns against people urinating in public, they wouldn’t threaten fines for doing it, and they wouldn’t respond with relief to plans to finally make sure that toilets on India’s trains don’t open directly onto the tracks. Of course, these are people in India. It’s a family, taking care of business the family way.

As for me, the message usually seems to be: “If you don’t love it, leave it.” It would be nice if there were some other answer. Acknowledging problems, even ones that are almost impossible to solve, makes them easier to confront.

Riaz Haq said...

A Timeline of Food Safety in #India. High levels of worms, bacteria, insecticdes, pesticides, lead. via @WSJIndia
As public debate turns to food safety, we recap other recent allegations of food contamination in India.

Pesticides and cola: CocaCola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. found themselves in a media storm in 2003 after a New Delhi-based nonprofit alleged their soft drinks contained pesticide and insecticides at levels between 11 times and 70 times the maximum set by the European Union for drinking water. Coke’s sales plummeted by as much as 40% in the aftermath of the scare. Both companies disputed the claims, and spearheaded aggressive ad campaigns to contain damage.
Worm-infested Cadbury bars: The same year, chocolate lovers in the western state of Maharashtra discovered worms in Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bars, the country’s best-selling candy. Cadbury India Ltd., now Mondelez India Foods Pvt., said the infestation was likely because of poor storage conditions in India’s mom-and-pop shops. Much like Pepsi and Coke, the company responded with celebrity endorsements, including from Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan. They also added a plastic coating to their chocolate wrappers. The issue resurfaced in 2006 after a local court ordered the company to pay 15,000 rupees (now $235) as compensation to a man who gifted a worm-infested chocolate to a friend.

Poisoned school lunch: At least 23 children died and two dozen others fell sick after eating rice, beans and potato curry at a school lunch in the eastern state of Bihar in 2013. The lunch, part of a government program to feed tens of millions of malnourished children, was contaminated with pesticides.

KFC worm allegations: A businessman in the state of Tamil Nadu said he found a worm in a piece of KFC chicken last year. The allegations follow similar claims in 2012, when authorities shut down an outlet in the neighboring state of Kerala after customers reported worms in their chicken. KFC denied their food was contaminated in both instances.

Tainted country liquor: A batch of tainted country liquor killed 18 people and left another four dozen hospitalized in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh earlier this year. Inexpensive, homemade alcohol is common in rural areas, and often spiked with chemicals to enhance its flavor or potency.

Riaz Haq said...

UNICEF: In spite of #Modi's "Clean India" campaign, #India Lags Behind #Pakistan, #Nepal on Sanitation via @WSJIndia

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made sanitation a priority for his country, saying he would rather build toilets than temples and setting a goal for every home in the country to have a place to go to the bathroom by 2019.

But new data show India is lagging behind its neighbors in providing access to adequate sanitation.

“Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water,” a report published by the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization this week, says that advancements in meeting Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, by 2015 in relation to sanitation have faltered worldwide. The report says 2.4 billion people still don’t have access to improved sanitation.

Mr. Modi launched his Clean India, or Swachh Bharat, campaign last year for good reason. Research shows that the practice of open defecation is linked to a higher risk of stunting in children and the spread of disease. A World Health Organization report said in 2014 that 597 million people in India still relieved themselves outdoors. And the new WHO/Unicef report says that the Southern Asia region has the highest number of people who defecate in the open.

The new data show that despite recent efforts, over the past 25 years, India has been losing the regional race to improve sanitation.

Its neighbors, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan led the way with the greatest percentage-point change in the proportion of the population with access to improved sanitation facilities between 1990 and 2015.

Pakistan’s percentage point change was 40–64% of people have use an improved sanitation facility. In Nepal, a country in which just 4% of people had access to improved sanitation facilities in 1990, access rose by 42 percentage points to 46%. Bangladesh improved its score by 27 percentage points — 61% now have access to improved sanitation facilities.

India meanwhile, had a lower 23 percentage point increase in the same period – bringing the number of people with access to improved sanitation facilities to 40%.

And Sri Lanka is way ahead, with 95% of people having access to improved sanitation.

The report defines an improved sanitation facility as one that hygienically separates excreta from human contact and the target was for 50% or more of those with inadequate water or sanitation in 1990 to have adequate sanitary services in 2015.

Likewise, rates of open defecation have reduced, but India still has the highest percentage of the population defecating in the open–with 44% of people going outside in 2015—down from 75% in 1990, compared with a 13% figure for Pakistan in 2015, 32% for Nepal and only 1% for Bangladesh.

But, the report says: “The 31 per cent reduction in open defecation in India alone represents 394 million people, and significantly influences regional and global estimates.”

Riaz Haq said...

A Huge Noxious #Garbage fire in #India's biggest city #Mumbai was so bad you could see it from space #NASA

Last week, a fire in the largest landfill in Mumbai sent smoke across the Indian coastal metropolis. It burned for four days, cloaking parts of the city in a thick, noxious smog. Some 70 schools were forced to close out of public health fears. Fourteen firetrucks and eight bulldozers were needed to bring the fire under control.

NASA's Earth Observatory captured the blaze from space. A more zoomed-out picture shows the extent to which the fire, streaming out of a teeming eastern suburb, was singularly discernible.

"Fires in landfills are often particularly difficult to extinguish because they burn through methane, plastic, and other highly flammable substances," NASA noted on its website.

The cause of the fire is as yet undetermined, but local authorities suspect youthful miscreants may have set it off intentionally.

It highlights the disastrous lack of adequate waste management in Mumbai, India's biggest city, with a population of 21 million. The Deonar landfill receives a third to as much as three-quarters of all of Mumbai's garbage, yet it doesn't have a proper waste treatment facility.

The Wall Street Journal describes how grim the situation is there:

Experts say the landfill needs an underlying layer of clay to prevent toxic materials seeping into the soil and polluting the groundwater. The waste also needs to be alternated with a layer of soil to allow it to decompose properly.

Tatva Global Deonar Environment Ltd., the contractor in charge of the Deonar dump, said [Mumbai's city government] had not provided the material necessary despite agreeing to do so.

The municipal body also dumped more than 6,000 tons of waste a day in the landfill, more than double the agreed amount, a spokesman for the contractor said in an email.

A journalist at the Times of India publicized a letter written by a 6-year-old to local authorities, pleading for something to be done.

Riaz Haq said...

V.S. Naipaul understood the culture of open defecation when he said #Indians defecate everywhere via @riceinstitute

I recently picked up V.S. Naipaul’s book An Area of Darkness, a chronicle of his first trip to India published in 1964. Although some view the book as overly pessimistic and scathing, his portrayal of India’s culture of open defecation is uncannily accurate.
Shankaracharya Hill, overlooking the Dal Lake, is one of the beauty spots of Srinagar. It has to be climbed with care, for large areas of its lower slopes are used as latrines by Indian tourists. If you surprise a group of three women, companionably defecating, they will giggle: the shame is yours, for exposing yourself to such a scene.
In Madras the bus station near the High Court is one of the more popular latrines. The traveller arrives; to pass the time he raises his dhoti, defecates in the gutter. The bus arrives; he boards it; the woman sweeper cleans up after him.

In Goa, you might think of taking an early morning walk along the balustrade avenue that runs beside the Mandovi River. Six feet below, on the water’s edge, and as far as you can see, there is a line, like a wavering tidewrack, of squatters. For the people of Goa, as for those of Imperial Rome, defecating is a social activity; they squat close to one another; they chatter. When they are done they advance, trousers still down, backsides bare, into the water to wash themselves.

Indians defecate everywhere. They defecate, mostly, beside the railway tracks. But they also defecate on the beaches; they defecate on the hills; they defecate on the river banks; they defecate on the streets; they never look for cover.

A handsome young Muslim boy, a student at a laughable institute of education in an Uttar Pradesh weaving town, elegantly dressed in the style of Mr. Nehru, even down to the buttonhole, had another explanation. Indians were a poetic people, he said. He himself always sought the open because he was a poet, a lover of Nature, which was the matter of his Urdu verses; and nothing was as poetic as squatting on a river bank at dawn.
He eloquently describes in these vignettes what we have found 50 years later in the SQUAT and Switching Studies: that defecating in the open is the social norm. It is considered to be a part of the wholesome, rural life, in which one takes a walk outside in nature, socializes with friends, and avoids polluting oneself and one’s home.

Riaz Haq said...

Lack of toilets contributing to rise of #rape in #India – University of Michigan Study. , #opendefecation …

Women in India who don’t have adequate access to sanitation facilities and are forced to openly defecate are more likely to experience sexual violence, according to a new study.
Approva Jadhav, a researcher from the University of Michigan, said that “open defecation places women at uniquely higher risk of type of sexual violence: non-partner” in the co-authored report.

In their findings, researchers said it was twice as likely for women without access to “household toilets” to face sexual violence than women who do have such access, suggesting that improvement of infrastructure and access to toilets would provide a safer environment for women.

“Women who use open defecation sites such as open fields or the side of a railway track are twice as likely to get raped when compared with women using a home toilet,” the study stated.

“Our findings provide further rationale for NGO’s and the Indian government to expand sanitation programs, and raise new questions about the potentially protective role of sanitation facilities in other contexts beyond India,” the research found.

Almost half of India’s population do not have access to basic sanitation and have to defecate in public and women appear to be affected the most.

“This is an urgent need that cannot be ignored anymore,” Ms Jadhav, lead author of the report, told NDTV. “We need more than anecdotes to bring a policy change.”

By analyzing data from the Indian National Family Health Survey along with an overall representative sample of 75,000 women who answered questions on accessibility to toilets in their homes and experiences of various types of violence, the researchers found that previous sanitation studies did not examine the synonymous link between the two.

The issue of India’s sanitation crisis being linked to sexual violence came to light in 2014 when two teenage girls were raped and hanged in Uttar Pradesh while they were making their way to fields to defecate.

In the slums of Delhi, where communities often have to share public toilets, girls under the age of 10 have been found to be at risk of “being raped while on their way to use a public toilet,” according to a BBC report, which also states that around 300 million women and girls in the country defecate in the open.

Riaz Haq said...

Horrible #toilets. lack of #Hygiene, at #India’s #aerospace show in #Bangalore. #Modi #AeroIndia2017 … via @TOIOpinion... it didn’t occur to the organisers that these women would need access to clean toilets. There were just under a dozen toilets for women at the show, each afflicted with its own unique problem. Some had no water, toilet paper rolls or soaps; some had too much water on the floor, forcing the users to roll up their trousers or hitch up their sarees before entering, while some demanded a cross-country trek over unpaved ground, difficult to negotiate in heels.
One thing united them all: absolute lack of hygiene. For a show of this level, the organisers had hired local cleaning women to attend to the toilets, instead of professional housekeepers.
This makes a mockery of everything we claim and aspire for at so many levels. Let’s take each level one by one. We claim to be a leading power in Asia; our prime minister asserts that our time has come and the world must take notice; and he is exhorting global industry to come and ‘Make in India’. Yet, at the biggest showcase event, the infrastructure is so abysmal that foreign participants make sympathetic noises while putting India back in the third or the fourth world.

Riaz Haq said...

#India turns to public shaming to get people to use its 52 million new #toilets. #OpenDefecation #Hygiene #Modi BEED, India — The patrols started at dawn, and the villagers scattered, abandoning their pails of water to avoid humiliation and fines.

Every morning in this district in rural India, teams of government employees and volunteer “motivators” roam villages to publicly shame those who relieve themselves in the open. The “good-morning squads” are part of what one official called “the largest behavioral-change program anywhere in the world.”

This is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship Clean India initiative in mission mode. By October 2019, Modi has vowed, every Indian will have access to a toilet, and the country will be free of the scourge of open defecation. Since Modi came to power, more than 52 million toilets have been installed. But the trick, sanitation experts say, is getting people to use them.

To win favor with the ruling party’s top brass, government officials have set to work, trying to outpace one another with toilet-building races and eye-catching information campaigns. Many are resorting to controversial public shaming tactics.

Riaz Haq said...

World #SnakeDay: #India is the #Snakebite Capital of the World with one million reported snakebites every year that kill ~60,000 and leave 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh #Indians permanently disabled. There's deteriorating quality, rising costs of antivenom. #disease

Poor waste management practices in our cities lead to a thriving rodent population, which in turn leads to a thriving population of snakes, albeit those of just commensal species such as cobras, rat snakes, Russell’s vipers and a few others. Still, the urban residents have little to fear when it comes to snakebites.

The story in rural India is vastly different — akin to two diametrically opposite ‘Indias’ within the same geographic boundary. Our country leads the world in snakebite figures, deaths from snakebite, and even cases of loss of life function.

Now, on the occasion of World Snake Day — observed annually on July 16 to increase awareness about the different species of snake all around the world — we attempt to understand the ground reality of human-snake conflict in India.

India records over 10 lakh snakebites every single year, which kill ~60,000 individuals and leave another 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh people with permanent disabilities. Studies have demonstrated that 94% of the victims are farmers, most of which belong to the most economically productive age groups.

These are staggering figures for a disease that the World Health Organisation (WHO) rightly calls a ‘Neglected Tropical Disease’. However, they are only an unfortunate fraction when compared to the number of snakes that are cruelly and brutally killed in conflict every day across the country.

One cannot help but wonder how India, one of the first countries in the world to develop antivenom over a century ago, remains frozen in time when it comes to safeguarding its citizens from snakebite. A myriad of problems surround the issue of human-snake conflict, and very few have attempted to address it, unlike the conflicts with mega-fauna such as tigers, elephants, bears and others.

Challenges that coil the human-snake conflict in India
The complexity of snakebite begins with the very fact that India, as a tropical country, is blessed with a diversity of snakes rivalled by few others. Among more than 300 species of snakes found in the country, nearly 50 are venomous, of which 18-20 are medically significant — meaning they can cause loss of life or morbidity in their victims if untreated.

Despite these many medically significant species, the lone antivenom available in India only targets the four most commonly found venomous species. This effectively ignores those parts of the country where none of these four species are found. Further, for nearly a decade now, it has been common knowledge that the venom of snakes, even within the same species, varies by region significantly enough to render the antivenom ineffective in several places.

Snake venom, produced at the lone source in the country, has been severely critiqued for its deteriorating quality and increasing costs by the antivenom manufacturers. In turn, herpetologists and venom research scientists have long been urging the pharmaceuticals to upgrade their own processes for the manufacture of antivenom, which will need significantly lower quantities of venom and at least addresses the issue of costs of venom.

Beyond all of these issues, the major hurdle at the hospital stage for the victim, is the lack of availability of antivenom, and the fact that snakebite is a medico-legal case which hoists far more bureaucratic hoops for a victim and their family to jump through. If one were to bypass these hurdles still, they are often faced with a medical fraternity that is so poorly equipped to treat snakebites that victims are often shuttled between hospitals, only for several to succumb in transit.

Riaz Haq said...

Postponing India’s census is terrible for the country
But it may suit Narendra Modi just fine

Narendra Modi often overstates his achievements. For example, the Hindu-nationalist prime minister’s claim that all Indian villages have been electrified on his watch glosses over the definition: only public buildings and 10% of households need a connection for the village to count as such. And three years after Mr Modi declared India “open-defecation free”, millions of villagers are still purging al fresco. An absence of up-to-date census information makes it harder to check such inflated claims. It is also a disaster for the vast array of policymaking reliant on solid population and development data.


Three years ago India’s government was scheduled to pose its citizens a long list of basic but important questions. How many people live in your house? What is it made of? Do you have a toilet? A car? An internet connection? The answers would refresh data from the country’s previous census in 2011, which, given India’s rapid development, were wildly out of date. Because of India’s covid-19 lockdown, however, the questions were never asked.

Almost three years later, and though India has officially left the pandemic behind, there has been no attempt to reschedule the decennial census. It may not happen until after parliamentary elections in 2024, or at all. Opposition politicians and development experts smell a rat.


For a while policymakers can tide themselves over with estimates, but eventually these need to be corrected with accurate numbers. “Right now we’re relying on data from the 2011 census, but we know our results will be off by a lot because things have changed so much since then,” says Pronab Sen, a former chairman of the National Statistical Commission who works on the household-consumption survey. And bad data lead to bad policy. A study in 2020 estimated that some 100m people may have missed out on food aid to which they were entitled because the distribution system uses decade-old numbers.

Similarly, it is important to know how many children live in an area before building schools and hiring teachers. The educational misfiring caused by the absence of such knowledge is particularly acute in fast-growing cities such as Delhi or Bangalore, says Narayanan Unni, who is advising the government on the census. “We basically don’t know how many people live in these places now, so proper planning for public services is really hard.”

The home ministry, which is in charge of the census, continues to blame its postponement on the pandemic, most recently in response to a parliamentary question on December 13th. It said the delay would continue “until further orders”, giving no time-frame for a resumption of data-gathering. Many statisticians and social scientists are mystified by this explanation: it is over a year since India resumed holding elections and other big political events.