Gold Silver Reports — Build Smart Toilets Before Smart Cities —Even as the government has launched the Swachh Bharat Mission on such a large scale, manual scavenging re mains a big concern. The government has listed eradi cation of manual scavenging as one of its objectives under the mission but when you translate their objec tives into actions, there isn’t a single programme for the eradication of manual scavengers or their rehabilitation.
Sanitation in India is a caste-based and patriarchy-based occupation. By not acknowledging this reality, what is it that the government wants to achieve? What are their real issues? We do not need such a big campaign just for the construction of toilets. The campaign should revolve about changing the mindset first. Then again they will need safai-karmachari -something the government is not talking about.
Change the Mindset
Now that you are going to build some 10 crore more toilets by 2019, this means you will build some 10 crore more septic tanks. My question to the government is: who will clean all these septic tanks?
We have the Supreme Court judgment against manual scavenging. But what has the government done so far? We have given all the data on manual scavenging to the government, including the deaths that have happened in septic tanks. Over 1,000 such deaths have taken place.
For 5,000 years we have been cleaning the shit of this country.But 70 years after Independence, for rehabilitation, you can’t come out with a package for eradication of manual scavenging.The human angle is missing.
The solution? Invest time, mind, energy and money on modernising the sewage system and technologically upgrading the septic tanks. The sanitation system needs to come out of caste boundaries -it needs to be irrespective of caste lines. Look at other countries. Only in parts of South Asia do we have such caste-based sanitation biases.
The government is talking about smart cities and bullet trains. Before that India needs smart toilets and a smart sewage system. Like in other countries, we need a sewage system with no human intervention. We need to develop a system where the human excreta automatically enters the sewer treatment plant, and then the purified water can be used for domestic purposes. We have ready examples in countries such as Sweden and Switzerland. The water they use in the garden is more purified than our mineral water.That’s because they have invested in technology.
Modern apparatus that empties the septic tank automatically is the need of this country. The mindset that the safaiwallah will do the job is stopping us from thinking in that direction.
Sanitation needs to be modernised, humanised and free of caste mindset.
When 1.6 lakh women are cleaning human excreta with their hands, there is no point in talking about the right to dignity for all or, for that matter, sabka vikas. — Neal Bhai Reports