Good morning everybody. Happy New Year ji. And now that we’re done with the small talk I must ask you an important question. Did you use your bathroom today? For the real thing — yaniki, potty kiya?

The government would like you to believe that poorly maintained toilets are not to blame for open defecation in the country. File pic
The government would like you to believe that poorly maintained toilets are not to blame for open defecation in the country. File pic

See, I knew you would take my question the wrong way. That you might throw the paper down in disgust — even if you are reading it on the potty — and say ki what is this! This is a family paper and why should it feature such indecently personal questions? Actually dear readers, I kind of agree with you, that these are intensely personal matters that cannot be monitored in this dehumanising way, par kya karoon, I am only trying to be a model citizen, something I’ve always badly wanted to be but didn’t know the method for. And now there are so many ways being given! Like the one that aims to mobilise people across the country to become part of an online citizen monitoring intiative that will upload reports on the Sanitation Ministry website after checking and verifying the use of toilets in rural areas.

Sorry, I don’t know if this is one of those motions that have been passed in Parliament. But it’s a press release from the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (Don’t make faces. This is not America, jahan peene ka paani alag aur gutter ka pani alag).

There are some discontented people with a bad attitude who have been saying ki there are actually many toilets but they aren’t used because they aren’t usable. These people are a bunch of doubters, rumour mongers and probably an eventual threat to national security.

The real cause of open defecation in India is not poverty, poorly planned toilets, lack of maintenance or how-dare-you-say lack of vision in making development plans that take into account people’s needs and contexts. Jeez man, who told you that? Some fool pinko liberal? You should not listen to such rumours or fraternise with people having a negative attitude na?

The problem is the people.
“A recent report by a parliamentary committee listed various reasons for open defecation in India, including “traditional behavioural pattern and lack of awareness.” I am not just saying it. I read it on my mobile news app along with, “the report also noted that “sanitation is mainly a mindset issue based on socio-cultural issues and habit.”

Apparently it has also come to the attention of the Centre that people with the bad behavioural patterns are using toilets kindly built for them to store rice and goats. What do you mean why? It says oopar — “traditional behavioural pattern.” Traditional is never okay unless it’s Vedic. So the ministry has suggested that people could be mobilised to check and verify use of toilets and then post photos or upload data through mobile phones or tablets, directly to the ministry website, in order to name and shame these toilet non-users.

The ministry is going to add around two dozen additional staff for this purpose including two Joint Secretaries. When it comes to monitoring toilet use, you know, there’s no such thing as being too anal. And if we all push together, we can really clean the system.

And to really free you up so you can participate in this initiative and do something for your country, and in order to preserve this national security, the government has blocked all those websites you keep wasting time on - vimeo-shimeo and, and goes without saying, It is time, saathi, that you focused on the right daily motion. Zor lagake, I say.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.