Do wild Indians crap in the woods? Alas, yes. Bloomberg News
Sunita’s family in the north Indian village of Mukimpur were given their first toilet in February, one of millions being installed by the government to combat disease. She can’t remember the last time anyone used it.
When nature calls, the 26-year-old single mother and her four children head toward the jungle next to their farm of red and pink roses, to a field of tall grass, flecked with petals, where the 7,000 people of her village go to defecate and exchange gossip.
Only dalits, the lowest Hindu caste, should be exposed to excrement in a closed space, “or city-dwellers who don’t have space to go in the open,” said Sunita, who uses one name, as she washed clothes next to the concrete latrine. “Feces don’t belong under the same roof as where we eat and sleep.”
Sunita’s view reveals one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s biggest challenges in combating the world’s biggest sanitation problem, one that costs India 600,000 lives annually from diarrhea and exposes a third of the nation’s women to the risk of rape or sexual assault.
With no toilets for half the population, Modi promised to build 5.3 million latrines by the end of his first 100 days in office — one a second until Aug. 31, according to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. Without education, they’ll make little difference.
600,000? That’s as many as died in the US Civil War..