Guest post by Rohini Nilekani, Chairperson, Arghyam
For the past several months, I have been pondering whether it is really possible to have a completely open defecation free society, where most people are still engaged in small landholding farming, or as farm labour. Millions of people go out to their fields early in the day, often walking long distances, and when nature calls, where are the toilets in the fields? Or on the way? We would need toilets at the wayside, at the field level, and at the home. Is this doable? If not, is defecation in the field, with some due process followed (burying/covering up the human waste, followed by hand and feet washing) necessarily a public health hazard? It would be good to get some expert opinion on this. can we achieve the same public health goals that we anticipate from ending open defecation, by other means that are more appropriate to the current realities and cultures of the people in our country? Maybe some “out-of-the-toilet” thinking and innovation is needed urgently. Certainly we cannot tolerate any more the disastrous health outcomes, especially for children, from some current sanitation practices. So, how do we encourage better and modern on-farm sanitation and hygiene without building closed toilets everywhere?