WITHIN days of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal to the corporate sector to contribute liberally towards building toilets, responses have staring pouring in thick and fast. IT bellwether TCS has decided to take the lead into an actionable plan. It has announced a mega initiative of building 10,000 toilets in girls’ schools across the country. The company has provisioned a whopping Rs. 100 crore towards this cause. Bharti Foundation, the wp arm of Bharti Enterprises has pledged the same amount towards building toilets in rural Punjab, especially Ludhiana, where the company’s head Sunil Mittal hails from.
“TCS is proud to support the Prime Minister’s ‘Clean India’ initiative. We believe that achieving the mission of providing hygienic sanitation for girl students will have a tangible impact on the level of education achievement and development of India’s next generation,” said N Chandrasekaran, CEO and MD, TCS.
A couple of days ago, it was Oriental Bank of Commerce, which was perhaps the first organization to react to Modi’s appeal and announced a wp fund of Rs. 2 crore for building toilets.
And that’s not all. We have learned that a number of other corporate and PSUs have already started contemplating the idea of dedicating some part of their wp spend to building toilets, especially for girls.
To borrow Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak’s phrase, ‘this may just be the beginning of a new beginning’. The man who has spent more than four decades in building common toilets throughout the country under the brand name Sulabh International, recently compared Modi’s passion for cleanliness with that of Mahatama Gandhi’s on a television talk show. “For the first time since Gandhi, somebody is so passionate about toilets and sanitation in this country,” said Pathak.
In fact, Mahatma Gandhi had once famously said, “I want to clean India first, independence later”. And now, Modi’s intentions are clear, putting toilets on the top of the agenda while addressing the nation on Independence Day from the ramparts of the Red Fort.
According to commentators, addressing the need of toilets for women, is a not merely a sanitation concern, it is a question of dignity, and judging from the response, Modi’s emotionally-charged speech has clearly touched the right chord with corporates. It would not be wrong to assume that this thought and conviction of our three-month-old Prime Minister is capable of becoming a national ambition.
I spoke to a couple of lower middle class women in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, who in a very clear and terse way said, “It’s a question of mindset, our husbands and father own mobile phones and tv, but are not bothered about toilets”. In fact, only a few weeks ago, in a remote part of Kushinagar district of Uttar Pardesh, a group newly-wed brides made news after they left their in-laws place because there were no toilets.
In the manner corporate India has responded to this glaring and shameful problem that we face as a country is indeed a welcome step and perhaps an indicator of the confidence corporates are placing in the ruling government. And as we move towards a more socially responsible society, the toilet-for-all initiative is perhaps one of the most imperative and pressing issues that can be taken up by corporate India while planning their wp spend.