What ‘T’ Stands for? Trade or Toilet

Almost all of us know World Trade Organization that has played big role in globalization. But recently, I came to know of World Toilet Organization that had a summit and exhibition recently in New Delhi attended by many dignitaries including our Kalam. Years ago I wrote about Gandhi’s stay in Chmparan and his thrust on sanitation. The subject remains relevant even today.

With a rural background, I had been writing about the horrible conditions in villages. Open defecation is the only way. As I remember my grandfather and uncles with whom I lived during my early childhood getting up very early in morning and going for defecation outside in the fields with water in a ‘lota’. I also did the same whenever I visited my village home. Women had to wait for darkness of the night. But in those days, the social values and law and order situation were different. However, in rainy seasons, going out and finding a safe place used to be difficult. It was really awesome if someone fell sick. The situation remains almost same in rural India. But why should I talk of rural India, even in Noida, one of the richest satellite township, one can see or smell the misery created because of the open defecation near the main road in some areas by those working class who don’t have access to any toilet. And the number of such persons is pretty high. Unfortunately, many a cities including Noida has never planned to provide sufficient numbers of public toilets. After many letters to CEO to have a toilet complex in all the markets and bigger parks with Mother Dairy and Safal Booths visited by hundreds of morning walkers and customers, there are hardly any. Few years ago, I had to drive through the road of Bihar. It was horribly shameful situation with hundreds of women and girls using the roadside for open defecation. The driver couldn’t have driven without light and as he used to put on the headlight one could see them suddenly getting up and turning the faces in different direction in hundreds. When we traveled by train, we just couldn’t see outside the glass window in the morning when the train used to enter Patna. The memory of Khajuraho village was equally dismal. Government has taken up many programmes. One such is Normal Gram. I don’t know the extent the situation has changed. Even in Hindustan Motors, it was a pitiable conditions so far the toilets for workforces were concerned for many years. Unfortunately, it is mindset. Majority doesn’t feel it necessary to keep the toilets clean.

As Priya Sahgal reported on and from Sanitation Summit in ‘India Today’, ‘globally 2,600 million people defecate in the open. Of these, 700 million live in India.’ However, Bindheswari Pathak of Sulabh Sauchalaya fame wishes to half the number in India by 2015 and achieve ‘toilet for all’ goal by 2025.

Interestingly, even in 2500 B.C., Mahenjodaro had a highly developed sewage system that directed waste from every house into a sewer. Kolkata was the third city in the world after London and New York to have a sewage system in 1870. Yet in 137 years, only 232 of the 5,000 towns of India are connected to the sewage system. Sanitation Summit arranged displays of some toilet systems and accessories too. I am just getting tempted to mention some:

  The most hi-tech solution to conserve water are the incinerator toilets that don’t use a flush but one KWH of electricity for each cycle and produce a spoonful of ash.
  15 countries have by now adopted the Sulabh technology that converts waste into biogas, which can be used for cooking and power generation.
  An eclectic toilet seat massages, cleanses, dries and sprinkles perfumed water.

And then some pickings:

England’s John Harrington invented first water closet in 1596. He made only two, one for himself and the other for the Queen.

In US in 1996, a hairdresser invented a buttock stimulator for relieving constipation. An electrician, in 1992, patented the first electric chamber pot to keep warm in chilly nights.

In Switzerland, pay toilets give you 15 minutes after which the door opens automatically, even if you’re not quite done.

The world’s most expensive toilet seat was one bought by NASA from the Russians that cost $19 million (Rs 74 crore).

In Thailand’s Chiang Mai, elephants are trained to use human toilets, while in Korea toilets are called Hae-woojae, which means a sanctuary and a place to think.

Ben Afleck gifted the world’s most eclectic toilet seat to Jennifer Lopez. It cost $105,000 (Rs 41 lakh) and had rubies, sapphire, and pearls embedded in the plastic.

NewGen toilets have incinerators; seats that massage, cleanse with perfumed water; and portable toilets that fit into a rucksack with biodegradable starch bags.

Manmohan Singh’s ‘Bharat Nirman’ has many lofty targets for rural India: road, electricity for all households, drinking water, and telephone links. I wish public toilets for every village had been part of it.

More importantly, it must be mandatory for all the small and big enterprises including shops and public places such as petrol pumps, and restaurants on the road to provide clean and safe toilets.

Unfortunately, Pathak started well with Patna, but his business models was deficient somewhere, otherwise India would have attained ‘toilet for all goal’ by now.

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