NEW DELHI: Bhumi Pednekar's character in the critically acclaimed film "Toilet: Ek Prem Katha" was against the idea of open defecation and so is the actress in real life. She says it scares her to even think about putting up her clothes and sitting in the middle of nowhere and defecating.
According to Bhumi, women are the worst sufferers of India's sanitation crisis.
"I don't know the exact figure, but there are reports which show that in the areas where there is an absence of sanitary facilities, women often have to wait until dark to go to the toilet or to go to some isolated area for defecation due to which incidents of rape and molestation have been witnessed," Bhumi told IANS over phone from Mumbai.
"I can't ever imagine putting up my clothes and sitting in the middle of nowhere and defecating. It scares me that by doing this, my life could be in danger as anything can happen. But there are women who have been doing this for a long time. Just imagine the risk that they are taking, it is shocking," she added.
The "Shubh Mangal Saavdhan" actress is also against the concept of chargeable public toilets.
She said: "Access to toilets should be free for all. I don't know on what basis people are charged for using public toilets, but I feel using a toilet facility in a public area should be free of cost. It is a basic right."
"Toilet: Ek Prem Katha", which highlighted the issue of poor sanitation and women's security in rural India, completed a year on Saturday since its release.
"Through our film, I believe a lot of changes have been made. When I read the script of the film, I was shocked to see the fact that India accounts for 58 per cent of those who practice open defecation across the globe. But now, after the release of the film and through all the sanitation campaigns, there is a tremendous drop in ODF," said the 29-year-old.
However, she feels there is a long way to go.
"If we compare the standard of Indian public toilets with international sanitation facilities, trust me, we are far behind. If I have to travel in India by road, it becomes so difficult to find a toilet in a good condition.
"Our film was not about increasing the percentage of toilets in our country, the main objective was to change people's mindset as there are areas in our country where people find constructing a toilet at home impure due to which family members have to go outside to defecate.
"Impurity is not in the toilet, impurity lies in such mindsets," added the actress.
As a part of the sanitation-promoting film, the film's cast, including Akshay Kumar, has been talking about sanitation problem in India.
She also cited the repercussions which occur due to poor sanitation.
"Before doing a film, I never thought that sanitation could be a serious problem in our country, but I realised it is more grave than any other issue.
"People have died due to poor sanitation, girls have dropped out of schools due to lack of a toilet facility. Open defecation leads to the spread of harmful diseases."
Asked what's needed the most to improve the sanitation condition in India, Bhumi said: "Awareness and education are the best ways to fight the poor sanitation. There are regions where there is an issue of water crisis too. People of that region don't build toilets due to lack of availability of water, but there is a solution to that too."
"There are toilets which don't even need water, composting loos are the best answer to toilet crisis. So, what is needed is educating people.
"And nothing can solve the poor sanitation of our country unless there is behavioural change in people," Bhumi added.