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The Kerala government has shelved the Rs 48-crore, World Bank-aided ‘Washing Hands’ programme scheduled to have been kicked off on October 2. The programme, meant to "keep diarrhoea in check" by promoting the use of soaps for washing hands, kicked off a controversy with health activists and Left parties protesting the move.
For the record, principal secretary (water resources) K.J. Mathew, who had participated in the deliberations on the ‘handwash concept’ in Washington, said the project had been deferred "due to technical reasons". Kerala and Ghana were the two places that the World Bank chose for its "soap opera".
The World Summit on Sustainable Development at Johannesburg on September 5 had called for global ‘Public-Private Partnerships’ between soap companies and governments in developing countries to promote handwash with soap. The partnership, it was hoped, would double the rate at which Keralites wash their hands with soap.
According to the World Bank prescription, all you need is a soap made by Hindustan Lever Limited, Procter and Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson or Godrej to ward off diseases like diarrhoea. So, major Indian soap manufacturers were hopeful that ‘Washing Hands’ would take off and increase the sale of soaps in Kerala.