Toilet talk

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SummaryCan we begin, though, by asking why Ramesh did not do these things as minister in charge for sanitation?

healthcare bills would have gone down dramatically and the motherland would look less like a continent-sized slum.

Tragic, is it not, that 66 years after gaining freedom from colonial rule, India is struggling to provide that most fundamental of human needs to her people: clean water. Modi pointed out in his mammoth rally in Delhi last Sunday that it was shameful that even in the Prime Ministerís house generators were used to provide electricity because of the hopelessness of our power sector. He could have added that from the Prime Ministerís house to the wretched hovels of manual scavengers, we have an absence of clean water. The worst sufferers are the poor in whose name this government has spent a vast fortune on welfare schemes, that have nearly bankrupted India without obvious results. The next prime minister will have to deal with the horror of empty coffers.

Today, the poorest Indians have the right to cheap food grain, a hundred days of annual employment and the right to prevent their land from being acquired, but not the right to clean water. If this is not a bizarre idea of progress and development, it is hard to think what is. What is even more bizarre is the reality that none of our major political parties has meanwhile noticed the importance of such vital things as sanitation and clean water. That is until last week, when Modi, so far charged with being a leader of the temple crowd, announced that he thought toilets were more important than temples.

This should have pleased the Congressís leading lights. It should have made them feel more secure about Indiaís future, that they predict is doomed because of Ďsaffron terrorí, but it did not. Digvijaya Singh started tweeting hysterically in Hindi, English and in rhyme, and Ramesh asserted he said it first when he held additional charge of sanitation.

Let the crusade begin to change Indian defecation practices once and for all. Instead of promising laptops and cellphones, let the manifestos of our political parties make promises to rehabilitate manual scavengers, build toilets in every rural home and urban slum and bestow upon us the right to clean drinking water. These things could do more to transform our ancient land than almost anything else.

So long may our political leaders squabble over who first said toilets were more important than temples. Long may state governments compete to build modern toilets and

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