New Delhi: There is a
shortage of toilets, especially clean ones, in most parts of the
country, say people who cannot understand the brouhaha over a
minister's remark that toilets are more important than temples in
"A toilet, and a clean one at that, is terribly important,
especially when you are on the move and need to go to one
urgently," said Sita Ram, an office assistant.
"Whenever I travel to my village in Rajasthan I use the toilet
before boarding the bus, and then when I get home. The few ones
along the roadside are terribly dirty," Sita Ram told IANS.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh drew flak from some
quarters of the opposition, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),
Shiv Sena and the Bajrang Dal, for his remark that toilets are
more important than temples in India.
"The free public toilets in the city are unusable, they are
terribly filthy. Even the paid toilets are dirty. You pay Rs.5 and
have to tip-toe around muck in order to use the facility," Swati
Agarwal, a receptionist, told IANS.
According to Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak, the
minister's remark was in "no way hurting religious sentiments".
"India has small and big temples in large numbers, but you will
not find any public conveniences around these temples. The
minister did not say anything to hurt anyone," Pathak told IANS.
"In Sulabh, sanitation is our religion," said Pathak, whose
low-cost NGO has been striving to promote sanitation across the
country. "India lacks the culture of sanitation. Even if you go to
a decent restaurant for a good meal, you will find the toilets are
invariably dirty," he added.
Pathak said Ramesh was "trying to focus on the importance of
Annie Raja, general secretary All India National Federation of
Indian Women, said "vested interests were playing up" the
"He was highlighting the issue of lack of toilets. So many women
and young girls are subject to sexual violence when they go to the
fields and open spaces due to the lack of toilets," Raja told
"Lack of toilets is a huge issue for women and girls," she added.
She said that one can see many small and big places of worship on
the road, but not enough toilets in slums. "The issue should be
addressed, instead of making it such a controversy," she said.
Prem Jakhar, an office assistant, said the "muck-filled" toilets
she encounters every time she has to take a bus trip to different
places, makes her feel like retching.
"The toilets are so dirty, you can't even step into them, leave
alone use them," Jakhar said.
The United Nation's Millennium Development Goals, in a report in
July, said that in India it is easier to find cellphone coverage
in the most backward villages than a proper toilet.
By June 2011, 98.1 percent of the country's inhabited villages
were connected by wireless mobile networks. However, 626 million
people in the country - the highest number in the world - don't
have a closed toilet and consequently practice open defecation.
"Yes, we definitely lack toilets in our country," said Jakhar.