As a newly appointed panchayat development officer in one of the panchayats in Bangalore Urban District, I found the article, “The link between sanitation and schooling” (Sept. 19), to be relevant. Karnataka is firm on meeting its target of eliminating open defecation in rural areas by constructing toilets as part of the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan scheme. While implementing tasks related to this, I have come across practical difficulties. In addition to the lack of convergence between Ministries, I find the lack of awareness and interest in constructing toilets to be the first impediment. There are even well-to-do households that do not want toilets. Misconceptions about toilets being “dirty places” that must not be near houses, and a general lethargy in keeping the facility clean and functional are the other blocks. Instilling a sense of pride and moral responsibility in people in keeping the environment clean and keeping contagious diseases at bay by using toilets is the first step. In fact, part of the Corporate Social Responsibility task of business houses can be in fostering a sense of partnership between rural and urban India, by facilitating sanitation.
Having studied in a rural school, I have experienced and seen all that was mentioned. Though sanitation is a subject under government control, the time has come to further the idea that good sanitation spells better health.
Varsha Ramesh Sakhare,Navi Mumbai
Providing funds for the construction of toilets is not enough. There must be regular inspections as well. Teaching children about hygiene and sanitation alone is not enough. Teachers and the administration must ensure that they properly maintained. In addition to this, water supply is another major issue. How all this will be tackled is for planners to mull over.
The article reminded me of my ordeal, as a UPSC aspirant, where one is supposed to appear for the preliminary examinations, generally held in government schools. My centre had a single toilet for boys and girls, and with no running water. By the end of the examination, where one session was for three hours, the toilet had been rendered unusable. It was in violation of the requirement that UPSC test centres must have water coolers, well-lit and airy rooms and clean toilets.
The plight of the students in these schools can well be imagined. Sanitation is increasingly becoming the benchmark for a healthy and progressive country that India aspires to be.