“Toilets are high priority than temples”

                            “No toilet — no bride”

(jairam suktas)

If this is the line of growth, in the year 2050, Jairam Suktas will be at par with Gandhi Suktas (at least in number). Jairam Ramesh , the Rural Development, Water And Sanitation Minister has hit the head lines with his latest sanitation salvo.

Jairam finds that there are more temples in India than toilets. His new finding — men who can’t offer toilets to their betrothed, should not get married. No bathroom — no bride , dear.

It is not something to be laughed off. He just highlighted the prevailing reality if India’s sanitation scenario. By this innovative slogan, the minister is trying to shift the burden of the state to be half shared by individuals. The attempt is not a crime (as it may appear to some socialists). Certainly it is the state’s responsibility to provide some basic facilities. But the goals of such provisions cannot be fulfilled without citizen’s participation.

The issue of toilets and hygiene are not related to money alone. It is associated with social norms, practices and awareness. In rural India, open defecation is a common practice. People find no error in using public space as toilets. Through the brilliant mantra, Jairam appeals to the young.

The recent census figures shows that 87% of the households owns their own houses, 67.2% uses electric lights, 63.2% possessed telephones, but only 46.9% had toilet facility i.e., around half of the population prefer to use public space as toilets. In order to change this social menace, Ramesh forces the youth.

Critics of the minister (in the words of Bachi Karkaria, “they are lining up like rows of dawn defecators”) points out that mantri- ji is only concerned about toilets and ignores other core issues. But they have to understand that at least there is one minister who addresses the common man’s problem in an innovative manner.

For Jairam,  public defecation is a symbol of national shame. Hence he takes up the issue as the main one. Let us hope that more such problems will eventually find space under his scanner. But such innovations must fetch full marks.

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