Govt takes film route to get toilets into households

Sanitation dilemma

Yet, as the state moves ahead in implementing the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of 100 per cent total sanitation campaign (TSC) coverage in its rural areas by the year 2015, a recent study shows that 35 per cent of the new toilets constructed under TSC are simply not in use.

Pondering on this stark reality, K Ashok Varadan Shetty, Principal Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Tamil Nadu, said on Wednesday that though access to sanitation in rural areas has considerably improved, many households did not use toilets and even converted them to store rooms.

Realising that in the rural context the effective usage of toilets hinged on changing the people’s mind-set, Shetty told a UNICEF-sponsored State Workshop here that the Tamil Nadu government had now hit upon a novel way to promote toilet-using as a ‘status symbol’ in its rural hinterland.

In pursuit of this, the Rural Development Department has begun the production of 21 short ‘excellent films’ to be telecast in all the local TV channels shortly that will carry the message of using toilets in their homes as a ‘status symbol’, Shetty said.
In one such film, a boy visits a girl’s house in a village along with his parents with a marriage proposal. His father brags about their most modern possessions including a motor car, but their house does not have a toilet. The girl’s father is hardly pleased to hear that and the proposal falls through for ‘want of a toilet’, as Shetty put it amid laughter. “So we must tell people that having a toilet is as much a status symbol as having a cell phone,” Shetty added.

Only construction
Reflecting on the challenges Tamil Nadu faced on the sanitation front, Edourard Beigbeder, Chief Field Service, UNICEF, Delhi, said though more rural panchayats in the State were proposed for the Nirmal Gram Panchayat Awards for achieving total sanitation, the targets were seen only in terms of construction of toilets and not their sustained use later.

Quoting National Sample Survey Organisation figures, Beigbeder said only three per  cent of the families in Tamil Nadu disposed the infants and young children faecal matter safely. While 23 per cent of the care-givers alone wash hands with soap before feeing the children, only 39 per cent of the children wash their hands with soap after defecation, he said.

Equally depressing was the findings of another recent study that nearly 33 per cent of the households in villages which have won the NGP Awards in the State “slipped back to open defecation methods,” he added.



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