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Just because ‘goras’ say it’s wrong to defecate in open: MP IAS officer questions ODF clamour

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Special Correspondent

Bhopal: This might really raise a stink and soon. At a time when there is widespread clamour for open defecation free status everywhere in the country including Madhya Pradesh, a MP-cadre IAS officer has gone on public forum to raise question on the way the issue is being pushed.

Commissioner, tribal welfare, Dipali Rastogi has written an article in an national English daily, raising the issues of water scarcity and age old habit of open defecation, especially in rural areas, in context to the major and time-bound push to home toilet building and use to achieve ODF status.

The 1994 batch IAS officer has certainly stirred the hornet’s nest by indicating that the mega exercise reeks of colonial mindset.

“We have this government-sponsored mega-construction drive where building house-toilets has become an infrastructure project like building roads and dams. ODF (Open Defecation Free) status is an ideal that every area should achieve. Fast. It is a run to change a centuries-old mindset in just a few months. Because the goras say it’s wrong to defecate in the open. And we get defensive,” Rastogi writes in her article.

The officer makes a very valid point about serious water scarcity in rural areas that is causing even the built toilets to be left unused. She talks about the harsh sun turning the excreta left in open into manure vis a vis the toil of bringing water to use in the toilets.

“Now, however, the goras are saying it’s unhygienic to leave your excreta out in the fields. That it causes underground water pollution. That it causes diarrhoea, even malnutrition. We must build a toilet within the house.

Never mind the scarcity of water — that won’t be a problem. We must build overhead tanks. We’ll pump water into them. Sure we’ll have electricity all the time to use those pumps.

Sounds good, eh? Except that, strangely enough, the villagers who are building the toilets are really not using them. I wonder now, would it be possible to keep the toilet clean after multiple uses with the limited water we have? And what of the stench, the claustrophobia?” she writes.

The officer also takes dig at the paper tissue using habit of westerns as against use of water to wash after defecating by Indians to highlight the difference of habits and conditions including weather.

The article makes it clear in end that the views are Rastogi’s personal and she concludes the article on an assuaging note: “Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for toilets. After all, I am a city-dweller. I’m just uncomfortable with the way we are pushing it.”

(Read Dipali Rastogi’s full article on: