Wednesday, 19 October 2011

it's court again!

In India most of the public welfare work is done only when the judiciary intervenes and directs the governments to budge.
The trend has become quite frequent in the recent times - be it an issue as big as corruption and black money or an issue so sensitive as water and sanitation, which affects the lives of thousands of Indians all across the nation.
The governments mostly do not act on their own despite boasting of huge funds under Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Rejuvenation Mission or heavy finances under Total Sanitation Campaign.
The most recent case is an appeal in the Supreme Court. The petitioner informed the court that over 300 schools in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh do not have any facility of drinking water (mind you, he is talking of drinking water as the question of safe drinking water does not arise in places where availability of water is in question).
Fortunately, the court took a serious note of the complaint and asked the government to ensure availability of drinking water in all the schools in a week's time. Not only Uttar Pradesh, a few other states like Jammu and Kashmir too, were asked to work on war footing.
Not only water, the court asked these states to ensure the facility of toilets in the schools as well.
In India, most of the girls drop out of schools after achieving puberty as majority of schools do not have toilets.
The best part of this case in the Supreme Court was that the court reminded the governments that it was violation of the human rights if it failed in providing drinking water and sanitation facilities to its people.
November 30 is the deadline for the governments to execute the court order - It would be interesting to watch whether the governments now act or continue to have a placid attitude to such an urgent need and come before the court with some lame excuse for its failure!

The Mindset !

It's all about the mindset! Or India would have set an example before the world by making its President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the champions of sanitation and hygiene.
Somebody with a high thinking about sanitation and hygiene must have placed the photos of these highest dignitaries of India on the doors of the washrooms of an Airport in Nagpur city in the state of Maharashtra. The photos were used to indicate 'men' and 'women'.
Although the photos were used in the washrooms of the VIP (very important person) lounge of the airport (which the mere mortals of the nation have no access to), yet a legislative assembly member of Maharashtra complained against the use of these photos.
His plea is that the display of these photos is against the discipline and the protocol. He has also demanded disciplinary action against the official responsible for this "huge mistake".
I wonder why no one has ever objected to photos of film stars and top models of the country on washroom doors.
India is a country where the sides of all the roads function as public urinals and where the toilets in any government office stink like hell (it is impossible for a person with a sensitive nose to pass in front of these toilets without covering not only his/her nose but also covering the whole face). The nation is losing at least 5 per cent of its GDP (gross domestic product) due to lack of sanitation and hygiene practices and facilities. India is also losing its tourism due to lack of sanitation facilities (tourists prefer to go to nearby nations like Sri Lanka or Thailand -which have better sanitation facilities)
The nation could have taken a lead in sanitation and hygiene sector in the South Asia by making its President and Prime Minister the brand ambassadors.
But the mindset is that washroom is a dirty place and putting a photo of a dignitary is an insult to the person.
In such situation how can we expect some celebrity to become the bran ambassador of sanitation and hygiene and disseminate the message down in the masses?
Kudos to Shah Rukh Khan (who is popular as King Khan) - India's one of the biggest film star who felt the urgency of spreading the message in this connection and agreed to become the brand ambassador of Sanitation and hygiene through Waste Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).
Here is one more reason why Indian people follow the film stars rather than following their leaders!!!

Monday, 10 October 2011

No Monday Blues!

Monday blues... or Just another maniac Monday....
Who is not familiar with these common terms? We all have lived through these phases sometime or the other in our lives. But there are no such terms when it comes to pushing a story on as dry and non-glamorous a topic as sanitation.
"Mondays are the best days for journalists, who are working on WASH (Water Sanitation Hygiene) related issue, if they want to ensure that their stories get good placement and substantial space. The Parliament is closed on Sundays, the government offices remain closed, there are no activities during the weekends. And on Mondays, the editors are craving for stories. At such times reports on sanitation (which otherwise get discarded by the editors), have fairly good chances of getting prominent placement in the newspapers."
The idea (an encouraging one especially for scribes who are passionately writing on WASH) came from the Communication Specialist of World Bank Vandana Mehra. Mehra said this whilst addressing the journalists from South Asia and Africa, who are participating in the Global Forum on Sanitation, which is being convened by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), in Mumbai at present.
The idea was not hypothetical as it was preceded by a full page interesting reading on sanitation, which was published a few years back in one of the leading English dailies of India. The story simply displayed and expressed (through sketches, which were supported by facts) how unhygienic is the way the flour (the basic ingredient used for making cookies and pastries) is produced in India and many other neighbouring countries. It is stored amidst rats and cockroaches and is constantly handled by dirty hands.The intriguingly written story covered each and every aspect of the issue.
I am sure the mantra given by Ms Mehra's would prove quite useful for the journalists, who are working on WASH issues and are continuously struggling with their editors for getting their stories published.
And the mantra is - there is no maniac Monday for sanitation stories!!!