As the United Nations observes World Toilet Day on Thursday, Maruti Suzuki, country’s largest car maker, is building lavatories in some villages of Haryana and Gujarat under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sanitation initiative to eliminate open defecation.
In recent years, Maruti Suzuki has scaled up efforts to cover over 16 villages across Gurgaon, Manesar and Rohatak in Haryana and Hansalpur in Gujarat. The automobile manufacturer has tied up with the Sulabh International for the construction of individual household toilets.
Maruti Suzuki has successfully built 106 individual household toilets in 2014-15 at a cost of Rs 1.6 crore which helped three villages of Manesar to become open defecation free and targets to make at least seven more villages open defecation free in FY 2015-16, claims the company. For this, Maruti plans to construct 1000 individual toilets, 13 public toilets and 19 toilets in 10 schools at a total cost of Rs 7.4 crore.
But only building toilet is not a solution to open defecation as many people, even having a household toilets, feel going out is more wholesome and this mindset is a hindrance to the goal of an open defecation free society.
To counter this, Maruti even work towards creating awareness. Ranjit Singh, General Manager CSR and Sustainability, Maruti Suzuki, said, “To increase awareness among beneficiaries, we use various communication tools like Nukkad Nataks, Mahila Sangathan, education and communication materials etc. Even while constructing the toilets, the company ensures that the quality and designs are such that villagers use these toilets instead of storing grains, cow dung etc into it.”
Krishna, one of the beneficiaries of the project said, “The household toilet has changed our lives. I no longer have to plead with the girls to accompany each other every time they have to go for toilet, finding a private place, a kilometer away.”
On asked about Swachh Bharat Cess and its effect on Maruti Suzuki’s vehicle pricing strategy, Singh said, “Swachh Bharat Cess is a good move by the government and if the funds so collected are utilized efficiently for creating sanitation facilities, maintaining them and on public awareness, then such efforts will definitely help in curbing sanitation issues.”
He added, “With the introduction of Swachh Bharat Cess, there has been an increase in the price of the cars but it is very minimal. The prices have increased to the tune of just Rs 3 to Rs 5 per vehicle.”
Maruti Suzuki has also upgraded 14 government schools in which 24 toilets blocks – separate for girls, boys and physically challenged student-have been constructed in recent years.