From the plush Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel airport in Ahmedabad to Gandhinagar is a dream drive. Till last year, though, just before the road takes a turn to the bridge across the Sabarmati river, an array of bare bottoms used to make people flinch and turn away. But the municipal corporation hit upon a brilliant idea to solve this—they constructed a wall to hide the slums on this VVIP route and added a bamboo plantation for good measure. The exhibits may have been hidden from public view but the spillovers are still on display every morning!
Cut to Gandhinagar, and to the majestic Mahatma Mandir, a swanky Rs 500 crore monument to chief minister Narendra Modi but ironically named after the half-clad Mahatma Gandhi. On the road leading from the Sarkhej-Gandhinagar highway to this global convention centre, the view again has been cut off but the stench remains. Switch to the secretariat. The sachivalaya has undergone a major renovation. Gone is the old staid sarkari look, in its place is a stylised corporate one, carrying the distinct stamp of Modi. But barring the CM’s newly constructed block, pass any other gallery and the toilets yell from a distance, making you hold your breath. Even the IAS officers hold their breath as they pass.
The temples of the state are not immune to this problem either. The Saranpur Hanuman temple, 164 km from the state capital Gandhinagar, is a popular place of pilgrimage. Thousands congregate here daily. It has a toilet, and there’s even a loo for the ladies. Both western style and Indian. They, however, are usually locked. The janitor says the locks can be opened for a payment of Rs 4 but he can’t guarantee a clean loo or flowing water.
A CAG report for the period up to March 2012 points out that 18,321 anganwadis in the state are without toilets. Additionally, the Gujarat Pollution Control Board has issued notices to eight municipal corporations and 159 municipalities for not following guidelines on solid waste disposal.
Gujarat was free of manual scavenging, claimed the state government in an affidavit as far back as in 2004. The same government, however, commissioned the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to carry out a survey in 2006 and the report identified 12,000 people carrying ‘night soil’. Even more strangely, while claiming Gujarat to be scavenger-free, the state government has also been availing central grants for the rehabilitation of scavengers.
Gujarat Safai Kamdar Vikas Nigam MD C.S. Rajpal told Outlook, “Gujarat has completed a survey on manual scavenging in statutory towns and not a single case was reported”. But asked how railway tracks and platforms were being cleaned now, he had no answer. Martin Mackwan, a rights activist, believes Modi is targeting the Dalits with his statement on toilets and wonders aloud if the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate would allow toilets to be built at the disputed site at Ayodhya, as has been suggested by the Congress’s Jairam Ramesh (or originally by Kanshi Ram). The census figures are equally revealing. As many as 52 lakh households in the state have no toilet. Over 64 lakh households do not have any drainage facility and 49 lakh people are defecating in the open. And another unique distinction for Gujarat: there are more toilets in the state serviced by animals (4,890) than by scavengers (2,566).
By R.K. Mishra in Ahmedabad and Bhasha Singh in Delhi
If Outlook wants to single out Gujarat for political reasons, so be it, but no Indian state has sanitary conditions that are comparable to the developed nations (Bottoms at the Pyramid). That said, there are some areas—like sanitation, clean drinking water, food and shelter etc—which should not be politicised. I don’t mind a policy debate that looks at alternative proposals to these serious problems but devoting so much space to a critique of one state without bothering to compare it against other states (eg. how many people carry ‘night soil’ in Maharashtra) or providing context (eg. have conditions improved over time) is sloppy journalism.
Ram, Halifax, Canada
Rubbish article, why report on sanitation levels in Gujarat in isolation? The right way would have been to compare it with Congress-ruled states. In the last month itself, I have been to Delhi and Srinagar and I can confidently say that where sanitation is concerned Gujarat is miles ahead.
Mohan R., Gandhidham
Targeting Modi and Gujarat on this gives you no credit. The lack of hygiene is an India-wide problem, an issue which society as a whole has to tackle. But do we care?
Mahesh Babbar, Delhi
Looks like you are running out of ideas in dissing Modi. I can click a picture like this in any village, town or city in India.
Pramod Khulbe, Tucson
Be fair, don’t blame it all on Modi. The magnitude of the problem is such that it’ll take many years to solve our country’s sanitation issues.
Let’s just say it—Gujarat, which was like France till the year 2000, has turned into Somalia by 2013. It’s all Modi’s fault and Gujaratis are plain suckers for living in such a hell, which is why they elected him three consecutive times.
P.B. Joshipura, Suffolk, US
One just needs to take a train trip to see the dirty toilets and squalor in the countryside to know the gravity of the situation. The sad part is, people have become immune.
Nasar Ahmed, Karaikkudi
A necessary issue but an unnecessary attack on Modi. Gujarat is as good or as bad as the rest of the country.
Santosh John Samuel, Kochi
The stench is unbearable, from the authors of the article, I mean.
K. Suresh Jois, Bangalore
Trust Outlook to come out with a story blaming even our sanitary woes on Modi.
Neelabh Verma, Pune
Buzz in the capital is that Congress will barely mange 100 seats in 2014. It'd be 1977 like state.
84 Misogynist sir
And did Modi rise to the 'temple level' ?
Temple,Masjid, Church are all media of exploitation
44 D Adithyan
"What MOdi started was the need for toilets but Jairam ramesh descended to toilet levels."
"What MOdi started was the need for toilets but Jairam ramesh descended to toilet levels."
I dont know what is the meaning of 'descended to toilet levels', but a PM aspirant ( especially one who is elected on the issue of god-belief politics ), needs to watch his mouth.
Anything uttered, by such a person, on 'development' ( in this case toilets development ), are bound to be latched on by the media.
Out of the fund allocation, local bodies build toilets. The onus of clean use lies on the public.Come to Andhra and see the morning hours on the banks of Krishna and Godavari. The banks are just manured by human beings who prefer open for closed toilets. There is a sarcastic comment on the toilets of Andhra. "Rajamundry is toilet of Andhra, andhra is toilet of India." In a democratic country, there can be only request for the users and it is for the users to observe the rules of hygiene. Some are not comfortable with indian toilet commodes and some are not with western commodes. What MOdi started was the need for toilets but Jairam ramesh descended to toilet levels.
It seems the "toilet before temple" comment kindled heightened interest in Gujarat vis-a-vis sanitation!
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