Until next March 8th

Can Women have some dignity…?

We have so many popular slogans and campaigns running, every Rotary club and any other club worth its salt is talking Women’s Day let’s not forget the feminist seminars and public debates, RJ’s screaming at the highest pitch that their voice about the greatness of women, lets look at ground reality through the eyes of  the PM’s banega swach bharat,

There are settlements where people can be forced to build toilets.

The group I am talking about is the labour force the woman working out in the fields, building your roads and houses, they work about 8hrs a day, having to leave their homes earlier than that, during the day they need to ease themselves, can we allow them the dignity of doing so?  people have offered to give them mobile toilets but labour contractors don’t want to take it on, people living on the flats and houses where these construction work is going on, look at these mobile toilets as contamination of their turf.

Then the women who work with garbage sorting, the non-biodegradable used sanitary towels are handled by them, rendering them open to infection, can we provide them safety?

Go to any women’s toilet most of them are dirty, with sanitary towels strewn and menstrual discharge around… it looks like the toilet came alive and regurgitated all over the floor and walls, the putrid water still trickling from the bowl.

We can talk about women’s rights, and dignity but where is it? unless we recognize that each individual is unique and valuable by the virtue of simply being conceived human, we cannot really talk human rights, this includes the right to be born, as  many of us have, and many have not just because they were female, the accidental attributes we acquire, maybe our colour, intelligence, our physical and mental abilities, these should not be a barrier to our dignity.

So thanks for the women’s day’s saccharine messages but no thank you.


World Social Justice day

February 20th is the designated as the world day of social justice by UN, the theme this year being Preventing Conflict And Sustaining Peace Through Good Work.

Of course this duo word coined in 1850 does mean equal distribution of resources and opportunities in which outside factors that categorize people becomes irrelevant. Since 2007 the UN-General assembly has been recognizing February 20th as the day of social justice. This day is promoting efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion and unemployment.

The social development aimed at social justice, solidarity, harmony and equality within and among countries lot of there is also pledging of equitable distribution of income and greater access to resources through equity and equality and opportunity for all.

If you were to go through the UN-site there is a whole hoard of hot air, and high sounding ideas, ideals and talk, but at the grassroots I wonder how this pans out… the migrant labour who comes constructs the road, their families living in temporary shanties with no toilets, when they do use the open spaces the educated elite coming down on them hard… is that social justice?

People having to leave their homes in search of menial jobs are that social justice? Young adults trained with skill sets that cannot be applicable, so either they do engineering and work as bank clerks, or they migrate elsewhere disturbing the ecology of the society they migrate into is that social justice?

We confuse “growth” and “development” displace indigenous communities from their legitimate space like the fisher folk of Bambolim beach… the once common resource like the bay and beach has now become exclusive to the five star hotels and this encroachment is this social justice?

If we could train people for the jobs available, people take care of the sick and poor in their own communities probably we would come somewhere near social justice.

Actually all this social justice is a little wonked, I mean the issue we are really talking about here is the great economic divide. Which has been created by greed… we call progress and growth well growth could be good or bad let’s not go there now but progress should mean for the better here is where we get confused,  trees and settlements destroyed is called progress because we have better roads to drive…at faster speeds? Is it social justice that we destroy environment, we displace people we create population, we guzzle gas  to me a world or equality would mean no just a liveable open world for homosapiens but also for the animals, and birds, with our trees and river beds being clean and intact.

At the end of the day equality is not treating everyone the same way it is attending to the different needs equally.

A Crappy Affair

World toilet day
The UN has declared Nov.19th as the world Toilet day.
We have lived and grown up with toilets, of course during our younger days when we travelled we never used public toilets since we were worried about hygiene with the advent of pay toilets those are taken care off too.
The impact of open defection never really struck in, after all at school we were thought that one method of seed dispersion was undigested seeds in the faecal matter.
At the medical school the impact of water borne disease and zoonosis kind of seeped in.
Last year when I went with the Banega Swach Bharat drive of NDTV I realized the greater impact of it, there was a man who wanted toilets constructed because he wife died when she slipped as she went out the fields. Gone were the days people looked at costing, the issue that the public presented was know how, they knew they needed toilets, they wanted the toilets too, the issue was how would the sewage handle it self they did not want it let loose into the fields and rivers as it would cause contamination. The knowledge partners organized by NDTV addressed this fundamental issue.
maybe if a year back somebody told me that the international toilet day was linked with equality, dignity and gender violence and sanitation I would have rolled with laughter. But the exposure a year ago and working with the migrant workers have really opened my eyes to something larger.
I heard stories of villagers who want to send their daughters to school but the fact that there were no toilets and the trees had been cut off to widen the roads made them aware of the desperate need for toilets and trees.
On the flip side were elders who were psychologically comfortable doing their daily rituals in the open environment so they had bowel constriction when they had to use the toilets. Interestingly the resource person suggested roofless toilets and planting of trees, or keeping flower pots.
When we are dealing with the migrant labour and informal work force things take a different turn. In a supermarket or a mall there are staff toilets and toilets for the public, but in a village market, or construction site we have neither.
Some village markets have now come up with pay toilets but construction sites are still open. The workers have nowhere to ease themselves through their 10hrs of working. Neither do they have access to potable water unless they are carrying it.
It is easy to say that India as a nation has no sense of hygiene/dignity/whatever, to a certain extent yes, but if we do not provide the toilets where on earth are the people to go, they have to ease themselves so they will go into the shrubs if they are available or go in the open.
An year back I met a company that dealt with portable toilets, when we asked them why were these not used in places where temporary toilets were required, we were told
• Their initial costing is high
• They were western toilets and Indians were not comfortable using it.
By the way the company has come up with an Indian model this year. The waste was dealt with chemically so there was no odour emitted.
The sanitation maintenance people on the Indian railway have another thing to say. Yes, the train toilets are public places. The Indian railway has recently shifted to bio-cleansing toilet units, they put up signage’s to tell people not to throw their diapers, the sanitary towels and tissues down the toilet , yet people do so, particularly in the first class section which is supposed to occupied by the more educated aware citizens as opposed to the plebiscites of the sleeper class.
The international toilet day would be a great point to start an awareness drive, and toilet training—yes I use it deliberately because we need to learn how to use a public toilet, keep it clean and conserve resources.

sanitation for the roadside worker

DSCN8399 The World Health Organization states that:

“Sanitation generally refers to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and faces. Inadequate sanitation is a major cause of disease world-wide and improving sanitation is known to have a significant beneficial impact on health both in households and across communities. The word ‘sanitation’ also refers to the maintenance of hygienic conditions, through services such as garbage collection and wastewater disposal.[1]

Last women’s day, one of the nuns who deal with the health of migrant workers brought up the issue of migrant workers, their accommodation, sanitation where they dwell etc.

Ronald Martins of Goa consumer’s forum has been bringing this issue time and again, the issue of sanitation when migrant workers come. “where will they go to ease themselves?”

I realized the gravity only when I experienced this irresponsibility first hand. Suddenly the CM decides to build a stadium in 10mnts and a four lane road in half that time. Let’s not talk about the need for these structures at the cost of environment flora and fauna. The greater concern for me at this moment is….

The road is under construction, and workers are working for more than 12hrs. They have their temporary shelters along the road where their kids play, and they cook and sleep but we are depriving them of a fundamental need, the sanitation.

Where will these men and women go to easy their physiologic waste? There are no toilets provided. This is the situation at every construction site.  We complain about them using the roads to defecate, and the resultant influx of flies and odour, but have we provided them an alternate?

I have a spent a week with NDTV on the roads educating villages about this, yet I do not seem to voice the fact that this issue is not addressed in urban areas where we have labourers working.

Sanitation is the hygienic means of promoting health through prevention of human contact with hazards of wastes as well as treatment of disposal sewage or wastewater. These hazards could be physical, microbial, biologic or chemical. Wastes includes excreta human or animal, solid wastes, domestic wastewater, industrial wastes, agricultural wastes, all need to treated, with simple technology be it pit latrines, solid waste management, septic tanks.

When it comes to labourers in the open be it the road worker or the agricultural labourer we seem to forget to address this needs.

What are the options that we can think of?

  • In the case of urban labourers maybe we consider mobile toilets.
  • Construction houses need to provide proper accommodation for their workers
  • In rural areas, maybe community toilets at periodic intervals.

Even if this issue is addressed I noticed that large stretches of roadways have no provision of sanitation. Neither are there outlets for fundamental needs like water.

election2014On establishment of the toilets we face the next issue, maintaining its cleanliness and toilet training the people into using it. Somehow the current trend seems to be utilizing the western commodes which are not really hygienic. The best way to avoid toilet seat infection or water splash infection is the traditional Indian style toilet. This in addition to being hygienic is also physiologically sound.

We can provide toilets, train people to use them, create awareness about the need to keep them clean. But on the ground, we need to work processes for waste management, water management and waste water management. Unless this need is properly addressed we are pooped for sure.


the silent story tellers of the voiceless

tata capital 2the silent story tellers of the voiceless

in the anonymous city of Bombay where we have been, but never been, I mean we traverse without it touching us, or us touching it, houses half stories of people we have never heard of, people we rather not know of, real stories their obstacles, their challenges, their dreams aspiration and sometimes just to be.

Tata capitals wants us to hear these unheard stories. http://doright.in. We could write, donate, share, repost or forward, or just simply stay connected. We could just complete these stories. Like the story of Shahin and Chetan who are audio-challenged teenagers who have just learnt photography. The bring us story of Mumbai a city of forgotten stories.

The children have begun a journey to empowerment.

Dr.Ajay Kothari sowed a seed, while people of the noisy world were challenged when it came to using non-verbal communication, he had a group of highly privileged individuals who were challenged when it came to hearing, this would have made their non communication skills very potent. Yet the greater challenge must have been silencing the verbose world to listen these voices.

Then came Pankaj Trivedi, with camera in hand and boy has he trained the young ones? http://doright.in/category/mumbai/

If I were to complete this story I would make them the bridge between the lost people of Mumbai who are buzzing in the local trains, picking up grocery from the vendor nearest to the station rushing to cook dinner and rest a while before travelling 2hrs to work next day.

If these children bring the stories back to the people, with puppets, documentaries, and visual story telling whatever their unique vision would add to recreating the identity of the people. Someday, I know I will read a column by Chetan, a view a show hosted by Shahin. Read a book penned by their friend and view documentary penned by someone else. But more importantly if will hear someone say she heard a story from silent child that made her realize who she was. A story that merged her current story with a story that she erased to create a new identity that empowered both the storyteller and her listener.

Could it be possible for us find how Chetan and Shahin would like their story to go and help them achieve it?