Over two dozen mascots wearing bright-coloured clothing would be deployed in some areas in Delhi to catch people defecating in the open.
This is to shame them and to inculcate in the minds of people that the government takes a dim view of such behaviour. However laudable the measure is, it is unlikely to make an impact for reasons which are not far to seek. In a city whose population has crossed the two million mark, even three dozen mascots are like drops in the ocean.
Also, it does not address the real problems of which open defecation is just a symptom. Delhi is the capital but it does not have an adequate number of toilets. To mention one instance, the Delhi Metro is considered a success story but not many people know that there are only a few Metro stations which have toilet facilities.
It is quite common to find men urinating in the open once they leave the Metro premises. Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, hundreds of new toilets have been opened in the city but they are still inadequate to meet the needs of people. For instance, millions visit Delhi from all over India and abroad.
Except for those toilets managed by an agency like Sulabh International, the rest are in a miserable condition. Maintaining hygienic toilets is more important than building new ones. Civic agencies are not adequately equipped to address maintenance issues. Slums coexist with posh colonies in the capital. The slum-dwellers constitute a significant proportion of the Delhiites and they do not have access to toilets. They are the ones who use public places like rail lines to defecate.
It is one thing to shame them by mascots and quite another to provide public toilets to them. The government cannot claim lack of resources as it collects a substantial sum as toilet cess. What it needs to do is educate people on toilet use and maintenance before employing mascots.