The current India is definitely not a paradise. It has its own problems that have to be fixed as soon as possible. And one of them is the lack of toilets in India. Both cities and villages face the problem of poor sanitation but what can be really challenging is trying to find a toilet in some rural area. The solution seems to be very easy – just build them! But the reality is not as simple as you think it is.
The great history of toilets in India
The first question that pops up in my mind is why toilets in India are not such a common thing. Before I answer, you should be aware of one fact or rather I should call it a “shock” 🙂 This first sewerage and drainage systems in the world according to the historians were built in Indus Valley Civilization of ancient India! In the ancient city called Lothal, everyone had a private toilet and what is even more surprising is that the first system of flush toilets was created in ancient India too. In those days, a common convenience was a private or a public bath. Having a private well was also nothing extraordinary. So, how is it possible that with such a great start, the current India is facing this problem? Excavations in Mohenjo-Daro , Kausambi, Lothal, rakhigarhi, Mehrgarh, Banawali, Taxila and Harappa have proved that people had access to water and even drainage facilities. Sophisticated underground drains were connected to the houses and then spread into much wider public drains. And one must remember that the latest findings suggest that Indus valley civilization is much older than earlier estimated according to the team of experts from IIT Kharagpur, Institute of Archaeology, Deccan College Pune, Physical Research Laboratory and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) who used carbon dating techniques on animal remains and pottery fragments from the Bhirrana site in India. These experts concluded that the current discoveries already indicate that the civilization is as old as almost 10000 years and this is likely to move backwards as more discoveries and excavations are taking place. As a matter of fact, Vedic history tells us about the human history in a very clear way which is way earlier than all these recent archaeological findings. But regardless of what one likes to trust more (archaeology or Vedas), one thing is clear- Ancient Indians were the pioneers in what we know today as the modern sanitation system. In these pictures below, one can see that the sanitation system had been present in India even in the middle ages and was ever present through out the country which show the continuity of their heritage since the Indus valley civilization.
The reason of poor sanitation in the current India
To understand it, we should still remain in the past. One of the biggest villains in Indian history – the British – who successfully looted the treasure of India are worth a mention here. Not only Indian pride and spirituality was destroyed during their take over of India, but they even deprived its inhabitants a basic convenience. The main goal of the invaders was to loot as much money as possible; they didn’t care if Indians would have a place to satisfy their basic needs. Enough public toilets and the public sewage system were not being built (maybe apart from those which were there for the British and their employees) and the old ones if they were still somewhere there, they slowly fell into decay. The infrastructure that was developed during the British times was just the bare minimum to support the British rule and to speed up their loot. So Indians had to find a way and the only way was to create “an open toilet in India”. People through generations got used to it and slowly it became something normal and a new trend. And then British left and India had to deal with thousands of problems that the colonization caused. Of course, one would say that they were more important problems to solve than building new toilets. But the biggest challenge has been to start changing the mindset of people who are already used to going to the open areas to ease themselves and to improve their low self-esteem.
One must remember that the British themselves had a very poor hygiene and sanitation system in their own country which is evident by the Thames river which used to be extremely dirty and the great plague that took place in Europe in the 14th century which killed nearly half of the population of Europe.
Recently, government of India has launched a ”Swachh Bharat” campaign. There is also a special tax which Indians are paying separately for this mission. They have an ambitious target of building 60 million to 120 million new toilets by 2019. The aim is to make Open-Defection Free (ODF) India. Only time will tell how successful this scheme is going to be as 2019 is not so far.
What is the correct technique of defecation? Indian squatting down technique or the western one?
One must understand the basic difference in the indigenous toilets of India and the western ones. In the traditional Indian toilet seats, one has to squat down completely while in the western toilets one just sits on the toilet seat in a similar position to how one sits on a chair. So, here comes a big dilemma. Which technique is healthier and the recommended one. According to Ayurveda, there is no better way than squatting down. But, for all the people here for whom research done by the western scientists is what they like to trust more, here comes a news- recent discoveries by the western scientists have proved that the healthiest way to do it is by squatting down. In addition, wiping off to clean without using water is another bad practice of poor hygiene which unfortunately some Indians have adopted due to the British rule along with their unhealthy technique of sitting on the toilet seat instead of squatting down.
Did you know:
”A vast majority of the people in the western world do not defecate regularly in the morning even today. On the other hand, in India one’s day can not even start unless one empties one’s gut and that is done even before the first meal. Further, a vast majority in the west brush their teeth only after eating breakfast which is another bad practice of poor hygiene. And not just that, almost a fraction of the people in the west clean their tongue during teeth brushing which is yet another embarrassing practice of poor hygiene.”
Even though it took a long time for the west to understand what Indians and their Ayurveda was telling the whole time, finally the latest researches in the west by the top doctors and the scientists of our times have agreed to the fact that our overall health of the body depends on a healthy gut. Be it the serotonin in your brain or a healthy immune system or the better absorption of the nutrition form the food that we eat, with a constipated gut one can never achieve a good health.
So, one thing is clear. The west which is still largely unaware of the techniques of basic hygiene whether its about cleaning one’s tongue everyday or brushing the teeth before the first meal of the day or having a regular morning toilet session at the beginning of the day which is further aggravated by the wrong toilet usage technique of sitting instead of squatting down or even the practice of wiping off to clean their rear without water, they are definitely not the right people to teach Indians the lessons of basic hygiene and neither they were in the past.
The strange situation: a great diversity of all types of toilets in India
One thing is sure. In India, diversity is in big numbers whether its food, languages, skin complexions or even the toilets. From the fanciest of the toilets in the shopping malls that one could ever see to the very basic types and the ones which are not even cleaned well. Have a look at these two pictures of toilets from India:
Is building toilets in India enough?
Clean India campaign should be supported by everyone but there is still one problem that remains. Giving a new facility to the people is one thing but teaching people how to use them is the real deal. Dirty toilets which are not cleaned are even worse than”no toilets at all”. Now toilets in India have became a national topic which is good, but steps have to be taken to improve people’s habits. Even though new toilets are built, they remain empty as many Indians from the villages believe that it is healthier to defecate in the open area. That is why there has to be special improving awareness scheme in which people will get the chance to understand what toilets are for, how to use them, how to clean them. Only then, some Indians will be more likely to change their minds. The same things have to be taught in the schools – it is much easier to learn something new for a child than to an adult change his lifetime habits.
Toilets have to be cleaned – that is another issue in India that has to be raised. Many people still perceive it as the worst job and it is no different in the west too. No one wants to clean it but the thing is that if people know how use toilets and flush, they will not become dirty so fast. Apart from this, for public conveniences, there have to be hired companies who will clean them every day and fix once broken. That will create jobs and toilet users will not have to worry about getting inside a dirty washroom. A good solution for the public conveniences is also installing automatic flush like it is done in many places in Europe (unfortunately, this wastes a lot of water that is why a good idea is to use them only for places where people have tendency to make it dirtier). In case something gets broken, a phone number of a company responsible for maintaining can be written inside so people can report a problem. In some rural areas before building toilets, a proper waste management system should be implemented otherwise citizens will not use them, arguing that there will be no way to clean them.
As we can see, sanitation in India is really in a poor condition. There are some reasons for it, but India – there is no use crying over split milk. What is done by the British is already done so it is time to build, educate and clean! It has to be our common effort to change India and improve women’s, men’s and children’s lives. The women in the rural areas of India should not wait until the night to defecate in the open field just because they would be seen by others during the day. And this is a responsibility of all Indians to make the topic “lack of toilets in India” gone forever. But we should not expect changes in 6 months – it will take years to see the progress and probably decades to make the whole India use toilets. To reverse the damage done by the long British rule is not so easy. But, If the Indians want a better future for their country they should put in some effort and change this poor state of toilets in India.