Chaitanya Kalbag wrote a very interesting column in the Economic Times, the world’s second largest english business daily, on the day of the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission, quoting us quite a bit. We thank him!
[The] government pledged last week to spend about Rs 2 lakh crore ($32.8 billion) on building more than 111 million toilets. That is a big commitment, but will it wean away the 53% of Indians who defecate in the open in our cities, towns and villages? Let’s wait and see, considering that a SQUAT (sanitation quality, use, access and trends) survey of over 3,200 households over 300 villages in Bihar, Haryana, MP, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh found that 47% of open defecators find it “pleasurable, comfortable or convenient”.
Open defecation breeds infections and poor health and has economic consequences. Two studies by Dean Spears at the Delhi School of Economics showed that Indian children are stunted in height compared with children in even poorer sub-Saharan countries, and that better sanitation led to lower infantmortality rates. Another by Spears and Sneha Lamba showed that children using toilets have better cognitive skills than those who don’t. “Our results suggest…that open defecation is an important threat to the human capital of the Indian labour force,” the authors wrote.