World Toilet Day: How this Swachh Bharat 'activist' found out the dirty truth about India's sanitation

Sanghamitra Baruah
Sanghamitra BaruahNov 19, 2018 | 16:25

World Toilet Day: How this Swachh Bharat 'activist' found out the dirty truth about India's sanitation

World Toilet Day is usually a good occasion for Ms Malini to dig out some toilet humour and laugh over it. That's actually benign, considering the loads of rubbish that she has to deal with every day on social media.

But on a serious note, she has been pretty serious about the toilet business.

In fact, she has been anointed the 'toiletivist' for her sanitation activism by the 'All-India Kitty Party Association' head office, based out of a posh South Delhi colony (sorry, exact location can't be disclosed for security reasons). Anyhow, what is important is to make people understand the need to stop defecating in the open and harming the environment, polluting water sources, spreading health hazards, etc., etc.


But people are people.

What do you do about them?

Yes, we're racing. The government set a 2019 deadline to make the country open defecation-free. (Credit: 

Now that her day of vengeance against the un-swachh lot was here, on November 19, Ms Malini woke up and went for an early morning jog. She was hoping to catch a few selfies with uncouth men and women in the background hunching down to do their daily business. Normally, they make for such good Twitter threads. A few pictures, a few inane laughs, lots of outrage and hot hashtags.

Ms Malini had everything planned out in advance. Post-her not-so-Swachh Bharat posts, Twitter would once again be divided into two sides and get busy fighting over how, despite all government awareness campaigns, people are still defecating in the open.

Of course, the funny bones in her knew how to tackle such sanitation concerns of the third world with a healthy dose of clean humour.

Ms Malini was clear in her mind that after the re-branding and re-launch of the government’s flagship sanitation campaign, frankly speaking, there was no excuse for sloppy toilet ignorance. The government had not just set a 2019 deadline to make the country open defecation-free but also constructed 8.58 crore toilets throughout the country in the past four years. Some people claim that is around 40 toilets a minute.


See! So, why can't people take a dump where they are supposed to?

Is this not a conspiracy by 'Uncouth India' against 'Swachh Bharat'?

Well, haters gonna hate and litterers gonna litter, no matter how many toilets you give them.

The government has constructed 8.58 crore toilets throughout the country in the past four years. (Credit: Reuters/representational)

There is an army of government detractors out there to ruin Ms Malini's dreams of a Swachh Bharat. The other day on Twitter, they were busy sniffing scams in toilet construction schemes. Somebody started bombarding her with 'non-statistics' and 'fake news' that even states that have been declared open defecation-free much before the national deadline have reported fake toilets on paper.

If that was not enough, someone from Ukhrul said that non-payment of the government-assured financial assistance for the Individual Household Latrine construction programme has made Swachh Bharat Mission a source of misery for him and his villagers.

Okay, now Ms Malini had a genuine concern about the authenticity of this "Man from Ukhrul's" problem. Why should Bharat be paying for toilet construction in some unknown country? Why is he not complaining to the Myanmarese government, or the Chinese or whichever country Ukhrul is even in?


Apparently, those villagers constructed latrines on borrowed money, following the government announcement. Who does that anyway?!

But Ms Malini is not a novice and knows how to slay such social media monsters. She quickly Googled and came across a report — how the government is not just building toilets but also coming up with innovative ideas like barring people, who don't have flush toilets in their homes, from contesting Panchayat polls.

Google further told her that such measures inspired a sarpanch (village chief) in Chhattisgarh to go a step further and order that people not constructing toilets will be ineligible to access the government’s public distribution shops to get essential food items.

Ms Malini couldn't hold her excitement and posted all this, tagging some well-known 'anti-Swachh' celebrities.

One non-English-speaking troll popped up immediately and started arguing: "Jab undar kuch hoga nahin toh bahar kya aayega, madam?" Thankfully, that was too much Hindi for Ms Malini to understand. She accepted it as a compliment for the government since she had heard someone saying "Na khaoonga, na khane doonga".

That should definitely shut up the haters, Ms Malini thought.

But again, someone else threw up some more borrowed statistics and started giving gyaan how toilets constructed for use were rendered unusable, owing to either lack of water connectivity or were built in areas inaccessible to people.

It was late in the night and Ms Malini was tired. So she left that unanswered and decided to put her phone on silent for the moment. She knew the morning after would give her enough photo-ops to show why 'Uncouth India' likes to sully the roads rather than use government-gifted toilets.

The horror inside. (Credit: YouTube/representational)

On her way back — after collecting enough video evidence to expose 'Uncouth India's' conspiracy — she had the urge to empty her bladder. She secretly smiled at another opportunity to show the swanky public toilets that the government has made accessible for everyone as promised. Clutching her cellphone in one hand, she opened the door of the first public toilet she came across. To her surprise, Ms Mailini could see no toilet inside.

Instead a broken pot, stained from all sides with gutkha spittle, welcomed her. She still mustered the courage to take a look what lay ahead under the pot — some more stains and dry cakes of excreta floating in the small pool. The stench of urine mixed with stool made it absolutely impossible to stand there even for a second, but the activist inside Ms Mailini told her to set an example. She lunged forward to press the flush handle. The flush tank, instead of oozing out a gush of water, made a faint clickety-clack sound and refused to budge.

By this time, it was becoming impossible for Ms Malini to hold her anger and all that was inside her. She came out rushing and started to look around in desperation. Just as she spotted a clean enough patch of grass behind the toilet walls and pulled her lycra jogger pants down to her knees and sat — she couldn't believe what was happening in front of her eyes and above her head. There was a something buzzing over her head. She was suddenly reminded of all those newspaper reports about government using drones with HD cameras to spy on people defecating in public.

What option did she have but to go ahead anyway?

As the whizzing of the drone seemed to be fading and Ms Malini rose to pull up her pants, she was reminded of another cliché often seen floating on Twitter:

'Karma is a B.I.T.C.H'.

Last updated: November 19, 2018 | 20:35
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