Sunday, February 19, 2012

Public Hygiene in Rural India:Extra efforts required

SreeNair | 4:20 AM | |

             The ultra hype propogated in the media left little reason to revel for the Indian regime when it came to the sanitationary aspects in the last Common Wealth mega adventure.The disgruntled and a concerned Australian swimming coach was quoted as opening his mind to the Daily Telegraph " You can go to a Western-style country and still get sick, but on the subcontinent they have bugs we have no resistance to." The exercise revealed to the whole world how callously and unpardonably it bungled when it came to hygiene.If this is the way our visiters rate our capital even in the wake of its much glamourised occasion ,how pathetic could our rural India project to be in their prying eyes.!

After 60 years of independance, going through its truma and exhilaration , India accounts for 58 per cent of all open defecations in the world. No other country in the world exists where about 60 per cent women have to go to the field ,waiting for desk to settle in ,for self relieving.The government has sought active involvement of all parties concerned including women panchayat representatives to instill awareness in the people towards public hygiene.Open defecation alone is responsible for many diseases and over fifty infections have been found due to it. Around 80 per cent of all ill people’s disease is transferred through human excreta and unsafe drinking water. Mr.Narayin Ramesh ,the minister for Rural Development concedes it as a "blot on India".

This has created many health problems in rural India.The lack of public hygiene takes away 10 lakh people in an year in the country a majority of them being children.

We have started the programme for public hygiene with the five year plans in 1980.The central Govt started Rural Hygenic Programmes in 1986.After 10 years 'the total hygene programm' was also started by the central Govt.Though these programmes have been worthy in extending basic amenities to many in the rural areas, 66 crores of people remain still outside the ambit of basic hygenity.

We have six lakh villages, not many villages have good roads, schools, health care centres. There is no shortage of funds but where the money goes remains a mystery. Minister Sri.Narayan Ramesh says that expenditure on rural schemes is just next to security. "Every year we spend Rs 1 lakh crore for rural India while for security we spend Rs 1.40 lakh crore. "

Although a number of new initiatives have been taken to alleviate rural poverty and aimed at bridging the the rural urban gulf like Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana, National Food For Work Programme, Pradhan Mantri Sadak Yojana, Rural Housing, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act etc at national level ,tangible results are still far off.

We as a nation do not give proportionate importance when it comes to hygiene. Education in India has hitherto been reduced to rote learning,a devise to attain a certain skill ,largely failing to impart mental capacity or character.The habit of throwing garbage to open places is a way of life.The humon excreta falls on rail lines all over the country.It has been experemently proved that the rural well water carries presence of humon waste.

World Health Organisation estimated that around 700,000 Indians die each year from diarrhoea. The dismal working conditions of sewer workers are another concern. A survey of the working conditions of sewage workers in Delhi showed that most of them suffer from chronic diseases, respiratory problems, skin disorders, allergies, headaches and eye infections.

A summary of the report on economic impacts of inadequate sanitation in India, released on December 20, 2011, by Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) of the World Bank, shows that lack of adequate sanitation in India resulted in an annual loss of $53.8 billion ($161 billion in purchasing power parity, or PPP) or $48 per capita ($144 in PPP) in 2006, the year of evaluation in the report. This was equivalent to 6.4% of GDP in 2006.

Water supply and sanitation is a State responsibility under the Indian Constitution. States may give the responsibility to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) in rural areas or municipalities in urban areas, called Urban Local Bodies (ULB). At present, states generally plan, design and execute water supply schemes (and often operate them) through their State Departments (of Public Health Engineering or Rural Development Engineering) or State Water Boards.

A study conducted by June J Cheng, Corinne J Schuster-Wallace, Susan Watt, Bruce K Newbold and Andrew Mente for ecological quantification of the relationships between water, sanitation and infant, child, and maternal mortality conclude that the access to water and sanitation independently contribute to child and maternal mortality outcomes. If the world is to seriously address the Millennium Development Goals of reducing child and maternal mortality, then improved water and sanitation accesses are key strategies.

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Mr.Arun Anand from Bhopal writes in Week end Leader,an internet magazine : More than 2,000 villages in Madhya Pradesh, have been declared as 'Nirmal Grams' or clean villages under a centrally sponsored scheme.

Budhni ,one among them ,a development block of Sehore district is the glittering example of how a great transformation can be effected by sheer inner strength, relentless and collective toil of the villegers for a noble cause under the leadership of their head. All the 635 homes in the village have their private toilets now.

            In Guna district, children from 25 villages are part of the 'Jagmag Sena' (The glittering army).Varsha Prajapati, who heads the Jagmag Sena, said: "We have very interesting games through which we spread simple but important message of cleanliness."We emphasise the importance of washing hands and keeping oneself clean," she added. Jagmag Sena uses means like games and discussions to engage people.

Hinotia village in this district is a Nirmal Gram and the local senior secondary school here is very clean.There is no garbage lying anywhere and all students are extremely careful about their personal hygiene.Gregor von Medeazza, child environment specialist with the Unicef office for Madhya Pradesh, said: "Hinotia school is a brilliant example of school-led sanitation. In such programmes, students not only take active part in the design and operation of school toilets, deciding on the layout of sanitary facilities, but also become agents of change." .

Sulabh International, an India-based NGO for environmental sanitation, announced the cash award of Rs.5 lakh for newly-wed Anita Bai of a Madhya Pradesh tribal village, describing her as a "revolutionary of a different kind".

The adivasi girl from Chichouli villege in MadhyaPradesh desserted from her in-laws on the first night of her wedding for lack of loo in their house outraging her privacy. She came back only when her husband managed to construct a toilet within a weeks time arranging grant from the Gram Panchayat.

According to Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International and recipient of Stockholm Water Prize-2009 "by revolting on the issue of non-availability of toilet, this rural woman has created a revolutionary action in India where more than 660 million people still defecate in the open, causing serious diseases."
Personal hygene is to be an important goal in the years ahead.


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