Safe urban spaces for all shouldn’t be a long haul1 min read 30 Mar 2023, 11:20 PM IST
Swachh Bharat needs an urban boost. If everyone had access to clean toilets, it would serve as a hygiene factor in addressing our abysmal gender gap in paid workforce participation
Now and then, what’s obvious needs to be re-stated, lest it’s pushed into the recesses of idle memory, where we keep stuff we know but don’t act upon. So, yes, democracy must be upheld in spirit, not just as a structure, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi reminded us this week. Also, hate speech will diminish if politics and religion are kept apart, as the apex court observed. To this list, we can add another truism. The participation of women in our paid workforce would go up if everyone could count on clean toilets away from home. Right now, India’s gender gap in employment is abysmal. It is not as if hygiene has escaped high-level attention. In pre-internet times, inland letter cards would cite Mahatma Gandhi as saying cleanliness is next to godliness. His actual take on this old adage was nuanced and conditional. “Only when there is both inner and outer cleanliness," he held, “it becomes next to godliness." Gandhi’s observations may explain why his spectacles were picked to symbolize Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a high-profile campaign for sanitation flagged off by the Modi government on 2 October 2014. Almost a decade later, this mission still has a long way to go.