M A I N   N E W S

Feminists snub Ramesh, seek toilets as a right
Aditi Tandon/TNS

New Delhi, July 2
With the incidence of violence against women using public toilets on the rise, feminist economists on the committees of Planning Commission are seeking private toilets as a right.

A “Right to Toilet” proposal has been made to the government by the Feminist Economist Group of the Planning Commission which member Syeda Hameed heads. The proposal comes from Renana Jhabvala of SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association) and noted academic Jayati Ghosh of Jawahar Lal Nehru University.

“We want private toilets as everyone’s right. There are surveys that show people are willing to pay for a private toilet with some financial help from the government. In urban and semi-urban areas, absence of sanitation is forcing women to defecate in the dark, increasing risks of sexual violence. We have documented these cases in several states,” Jhabvala told The Tribune today.

SEWA has, over 10 years, given loans amounting to Rs 20 crore to urban centre dwellers who wanted funds to build private toilets.

Countering the argument of Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh that open defecation is an Indian mindset and that the demand for toilets is low among rural women, the proposers of the right to toilet have said in their note to the Urban Development Ministry, “Surveys indicate that the first demand of poor women is a toilet. Open defecation is a matter of great humiliation for women, who are sometimes physically abused by others.”

At present, only 51 per cent of the Indian households have toilets.

“The demand for toilets is high in urban centres, especially in those not declared as urban yet and, therefore, denied sewerage connections by urban local bodies (ULBs). We are advocating toilets for every household irrespective of whether it is on authorised or unauthorised land,” said Jhabvala, who has submitted a note in this regard to the Steering Committee on Urban Development for the 12th Plan. The proposal says, “Most ULBs have policies which deny basic sanitation. We propose universal coverage of all urban populations for minimum levels of safe water, a clean toilet (norm being a private toilet per home), sewerage, storm water drainage and solid waste management. The toilet provisioning should be de-linked from issues of land tenure. Every dweller must get it irrespective of the legal status of land or migration. The service be extended to recent and seasonal migrants too and urban bodies should provide these on private and state-owned lands.”

Jayati Ghosh said the government did not seem keen on the idea. “One toilet would cost only Rs 12,000 and people are willing to pay some part. But the Rural Development Minister says there’s no demand for toilets.”

These economists say right to toilet be mandated after clarifying that its provision won’t entitle dwellers to legal rights of land.

Why private toilets

  • Water at doorstep increases productive working hours of poor women by 2 hours
  • Incidence of illnesses before provision of sanitation was 19 per cent, which reduced to 7 per cent after facility was provided, says SEWA study

What Ramesh had said

The minister had termed as "an Indian characteristic" the practice of open defecation and said there is no change in this attitude whether it is a progressive state or BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh)





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