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Watch: This district shows why India's journey to being ‘open defecation free’ has a long way to go

Khabar Lahariya's video investigation reveals the truth about defecation practices despite toilets.


It’s October 2, the birth anniversary of a national icon, and of perhaps the smelliest scam in our nation’s history.

The focus of the Swachh Bharat Mission in rural India, launched in October 2014 after the BJP’s landslide win in the general elections, is the building of household toilets, and moving towards an “Open Defecation Free” countryside. To this effect, the kinds of numbers this mission has brandished on the Swachh Bharat Mission website over the past three years is dizzying: Annual allocations of over Rs 9,000 crore, nearly 50 million household toilets built in the past three years, and 2.53 lakh villages and six states declared “Open Defecation Free”.

Yet the fact that the s**t doesn’t stay behind closed doors (despite Amitabh Bachchan’s charm and persuasiveness in matters of public health) is clear if one has spent any time at all in the rural countryside. In a matter as material as defecation, it is possible to see clearly the way in which social and infrastructural issues – caste, gender, location, water, electricity – mesh to make this policy extremely difficult to implement. And yet, the very complex reasons why becoming “open defecation free” is a difficult proposition are whitewashed.

In Banda district of Bundelkhand for instance, there has been an all-out, aggressive advertising drive: “Swachh Banda, Sunder Banda”. The new young district magistrate, Mahendra Bahadur Singh, is yearning for the beacon of an “Open Defecation Free” district, and is sparing no efforts: Wall writing, posters, banners, surprise sessions in classrooms, a dozen different toilet styles to chose from – just, whatever you do, don’t leave your stuff lying around. The SBM website claims that 62.5% of Banda has been covered by the mission.

Subsequently, Khabar Lahariya began a month-long video investigation into a few flagship campaigns and “Open Defecation Free” villages in Banda district. The investigation (above) revealed increasingly frustrated, angry residents who were blamed and humiliated for their toilet habits – the targets claimed to be achieved, or desperately sought, were bunkum.

In most cases, toilet doors do not exist, material for roofs hasn’t arrived, money that was meant to be transferred to applicants is eternally delayed. The online process of applying for a toilet is more complicated than what average non-digital folk in a “smart” city would be able to manage, let alone entire populations of electricity- and water-deprived panchayats.

This much is clear – no one is opposed to the provision of functioning sanitation, when it is provided in a way that is respectful and sensitive to people’s material realities. Instead of training the gun on entitled citizens, or making unsubstantiated claims, the government needs to reflect on the efficacy of its implementation of the Swachh Bharat mission, lest it turn out to be yet another costly, failed election vow.

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Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.


2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.