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Building Community Toilets cannot counter open defecation in Rural India: WHO

The mere availability of government-built latrines will not end open defecation, we need awareness and education regarding this

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Children in slum in India. Wikimedia
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Sept 21, 2016: A new World Health Organisation (WHO) report concludes that more than half of the Indian population still “continue to defecate in gutters, behind bushes or in open water bodies, with no dignity or privacy”.

And how are we supposed to cure this?

Proper sanitation is a big threat to our health conditions that India’s politicians have tried tackling since ages. Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), both promised to put an end to open defecation in their 2014 general election manifestos and kept this issue as one of the most important agendas in the election.

PM Narendra Modi, once said during his election campaign, “Toilets first, temples later”.

And the former rural development minister from Congress Jairam Ramesh had also asserted on the fact that, “practising good hygiene is as important as performing good puja” ( the act of worship in Hinduism).

Well, let’s have a look at the government sanitation policy to date for a moment.

Open defecation in India is catastrophic, when done in groups. Wikimedia Commons
Open defecation in India is catastrophic when done in groups. Wikimedia

For the past 15 years, two major campaigns are into action to eradicate the issue of poor sanitation in India: the Total Sanitation Campaign and the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan. These two have been trying to improve sanitation predicament across the non-urban areas of India by building both household and community latrines, mentioned riceinstitute.org.

But despite all the efforts, there has been very slight change in our plight regarding open defecation. In fact, from 2001 to 2011, latrine coverage in rural India increased by about one percentage point each year. At this rate, it would take the concerned authorities almost 50 years to eliminate open defecation to an extent, if not completely.

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And hence, continuing with the same plan of action is, therefore, not going to help achieve the government’s goal.

According to riceinstitute.org, a broader matter of concern is public health. The issue of open defecation is catastrophic when practised by groups in close contact with each other. Because India’s population is huge, population density is alarming and growing rapidly hence it is impossible to keep human faeces from crops, wells, food, soil and children’s hands.

The ingested bacteria spread diseases, especially related to the intestine. They cause enteropathy, a chronic illness that prevents the body from absorbing calories and nutrients.

That helps to explain that in spite of rising incomes and better diets, rates of child malnourishment in India has not shown much improve.

UN’s agency for children, the UNICEF has estimated that nearly one-half of Indian children remain malnourished.

Pouring concrete will not solve India’s problems. Leaders and political organisations also need to confront the cultural and archaic reasons responsible for bad sanitation.

Eradicating open defecation from Indian society requires changing minds, not just allocating money to building latrines for people that will either go unused or not be built at all.

Under the current sanitation policy, there is a provision for Information, Education, and Communication, (IEC) but the spending on such activities is restricted to 15 percent of the whole budget signalling that it should be considered secondary to latrine construction.

Consequently, only six per cent of the total sanitation budget has been spent on IEC to date. Instead of capping the IEC budget, the government should be prioritising it, because awareness always helps.

Pieces of evidence show that India must urgently correct its cultural practices, though it is sensitive to say so. Apart from poverty and lack of lavatories, prioritising reasons often cited to explain open defecation in India is the innate cultural norm making the practice socially acceptable in some parts of the society. Researchers found that only a quarter of rural householders understood that washing hands help prevent diarrhoea.

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This suggests that the mere availability of government-built latrines will not end open defecation. The need of the hour is the public campaigns, in schools and in the media, to explain the hygienic and fiscal benefaction of using toilets.

A catchy animated music video put out by UNICEF urges Indians to “take the poo to the loo”. The intention is right, even if the dancing turds will not immediately be to everyone’s taste.

Such campaigns not only mean that government-built latrines will possess a better chance of being used; they would also encourage households to build them for themselves.

– prepared by Arya Sharan of NewsGram. Twitter: @NoOffense9

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Copyright 2016 NewsGram

  • Anubhuti Gupta

    The need for sanitation awareness is not taken up enough in our country although it is equally if not more important than other issues like education and such

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Conventional vs Unconventional Classroom

So where would you be learning, conventional or an unconventional classroom?

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Unlike the conventional learning in a classroom, online training makes the content available for students digitally. Flickr

Learning is the process of acquiring new skills or knowledge and for quite some time students have followed the process of enrolling in an offline centre to learn and study from the material provided but now, there is a new and an unconventional approach to upskilling yourself and that is through online learning.

While I was growing up, if I ever wanted to learn a new skill, I had to travel a minimum of 2-3 kms to the nearest learning or tuition centre to enquire and then enrol for the desired training. Though there were interactions with the teacher, but inhibitions got the better of me and with time, because of all the unresolved doubts, the learning started to become monotonous and I lost interest. But online learning has made that journey for a student interesting, fun and a cakewalk. You can relax in your seat while the knowledge is displayed on your screen and ask all that you wish to.

To begin with, what is online learning?

Unlike the conventional learning in a classroom, online learning makes the content available for students digitally. Students can learn online, anywhere and anytime. Instead of physical copies of books, e-learning uses visual content and gamification.

To help you understand the differences better I would like to compare both the classrooms and the learning associated on the basis of parameters that are essential for an overall learning.

1.       Affordability: 

In offline centres or conventional classrooms there are a lot of miscellaneous expenses incurred and hence the fee structure is designed accordingly.

Whereas in online learning, students’ aim is to learn so companies spend resources only on developing the content and thereby lowering the cost of the training.

From text to graphics, this software does it all. Pixabay
In offline centres or conventional classrooms there are a lot of miscellaneous expenses incurred and hence the fee structure is designed accordingly. Pixabay

2.       Flexibility and convenience:

In a conventional classroom, if you miss a class it gets difficult to grasp the topic and understand what is being taught. The classes have to be attended on fixed days
and timings, offering almost no flexibility. Whereas in online learning, the classes can be taken as per your availability and thus giving you an opportunity to design your own curriculum. You could also watch the classes over and understand the topics in-depth.

3.       Answers to your questions:

While learning, doubts might arise about the topic being taught but students usually hesitate in asking questions in a classroom. Whereas in online learning, you are an anonymous user and your doubts, as frivolous they may be, can be asked without any hesitation.
4.       Practical experience:
The learning journey in a conventional classroom is about reading and grasping, it involves little or none practical applications of the learnings. Whereas in online learning, the training is designed in such a manner that the content is informative and involves practical applications as well. The test and assignments in the module are made to ensure that the student has a holistic growth.

Also Read- Apple Watch Helps Users in US Take ECG

Only 20 percent of the five million students who graduate every year get employed, industry lobby Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) said in a report, published last year.

The competition is stiff and is going to get worse with time so It essential to make yourself stand out from the rest to increase your chances of getting hired. The certificate you will receive at the successful completion of the training will help in making the employer realise that you have relevant skills and in-depth knowledge about the subject.

So where would you be learning, conventional or an unconventional classroom?

About the Author: Sarvesh Agrawal is the Founder and CEO of Internshala, an internship and trainings platform. (Internshala.com)