CHENNAI: It will take 3,800 toilets to be constructed everyday to get close to the vision of a Swachh India, as this is a state where 90% of the households are equipped with color televisions and 70% with mobile phones — but the number of toilets stands at an abysmally low 30%.
These were the key issues that were brought up at the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) conference and exhibition jointly organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and UNICEF. Keeping the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ as its central theme, the program saw a plethora of investors, NGOs and researchers congregate at one place to discuss what CSR innovations could be instrumental in achieving ‘Clean India’.
A CII statistic shows that almost 30% more girls living in rural India went to school regularly when toilets are installed. This information comes at a time when almost 500 companies recognized by CII come under the purview of the CSR provision made mandatory in 2013 (Companies Act), increasing the potential to meet the societal demands. Currently India incurs a loss of 6.4% on its GDP solely because of open-defecation, according to a study by the World Bank.
Job Zachariah, UNICEF Chief for Tamil Nadu and Kerala asserts the possibility of achieving the vision of one-toilet per household well before the proposed time-frame of 2019. But the demand for more toilets in Tamil Nadu are yet to see an upward surge. “There has been an order of almost 10,000 of our Enbiolet (Bio-toilets) following the Nepal earthquake. We get orders from all across the country but we are yet to be commissioned by any body or organization in Tamil Nadu state” says Sudip Sen, Vice President of Stone India Limited.
One of the biggest challenges highlighted in the conference was the sustainability of these toilets and people’s reluctance to change their ways. Says Santhanam, Former Chairman of CII (Southern region), “We constructed toilets in ear-marked areas of Tamil Nadu. But we found in our periodic check-ups that they were used by the villagers to store grains instead.”
Incentivising toilet-use, charging a nominal fee and creating awareness for behavioral change in users were mapped out as the main ways to tackle the many issues that came with toilet-use and misuse.
These start-ups, companies and NGOS set up stalls at the event premises. It was organised in the eve of launching CII’s official CSR web-gateway which will serve as a go-to platform for stakeholders. It was inaugurated by the Governor of Tamil Nadu, K Rosaiah on Tuesday.