The height of a person depends primarily on genetic factors and nutrition (“The long and short of open defecation,” March 14). My children who were born in the U.K. and fed by our Irish housekeeper on western food did not grow taller than me who was reared on south Indian food. Open toilets are common in Punjab’s villages but Punjabis are probably the tallest ethnic group in India. In Kerala, very few use open toilets but they are not known for their height.

V.K.N. Unni,


Dean Spears’ argument that the height of Indian children is correlated to their and their neighbourhood’s access to toilets is curious and unconvincing. If child stunting is the fallout of open defecation, lakhs of children living near the railway tracks in India would be the shortest in the world.

D. Pradeep Kumar,


Jairam Ramesh’s remark that the country needs more toilets than temples met with protests. The article on open defecation shows how correct he was. It is time our legislators realised the need for seemingly small needs which have a huge impact on development.

Ajish Jimmy George,


Proper sanitation, which is linked with good health, prosperous economy and sustainable development, has not been given the attention it deserves. Total sanitation campaign, launched in 1999, had a limited success due to lack of social awareness. Hence, the proposed Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan should focus on creating massive social awareness among the masses on the importance of sanitation. It is also necessary to have continuous piped water supply in rural areas for sustainability of toilets.

P.J.S. Sudhakar Naik,


Stunted growth is certainly a visible index of poor hygiene and economic backwardness. A frequent visitor to the U.S., I have always been struck by the tall and robust physique of Americans. One of the reasons for their impressive physical growth could be their high level of hygiene, of which toilet use is an integral component. Let us take the pledge to eradicate the evil of open defecation.

N. Hariharan,


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