Delhi Edition – October 14th, 2014
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's emphasis on the issue of public hygiene presents interesting opportunities for corporates to come forward and support the cause of sanitation under their CSR agenda
PROFESSOR JACK SIM & ANURAAG SAXENA
The sanitation mantra is all-pervasive in India today, thanks to PM Modi's address highlighting the issue of public hygiene. While the non-believers stuck to their guns, the man with the mission is going ahead with the launch of 'The Swachch Bharat Mission' on October 2, under which every household is to be enabled with toilet facility by 2019.
IS SANITATION A HEALTH ISSUE OR A GENDER ISSUE?
54% of India's population defecates in the open. This leads to low public hygiene and a higher incidence of illnesses, hence an overall burden on health facilities and infrastructure. From a gender-equity perspective, we see girls dropping out of schools (that do not have girls' toilets) once they hit puberty. The horrific murder of the two girls in Uttar Pradesh showed us just how imminent the need for toilets are, in terms of correcting a huge socil inequity.
INDIA'S LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH CSR
Indian corporate houses have had a deep rooted history of creating social good. So why is CSR considered a foreign concept that Indian business houses need to “adapt to“? The answer lies in where Indian CSR chiefs are perhaps not as well equipped as their western counterparts. (1) Structuring (clearly defined outcomes with well-defined budgets) (2) Management (program implementation and evaluation) (3) Amplification (reporting performance publicly).
SO WHY SHOULD CORPORATES CARE?
So, why should a corporate support a sanitation drive as a CSR initiative?
Interestingly, toilets lead to bad economy! The lack of access to a toilet leads to low hygiene which exposes individuals to health ailments and hence loss of productivity which in turn puts pressure on the economy and an increasing burden on taxpayers to fund health initiatives. A person family at the base-of-the-health-pyramid may neither have the interest nor inclination to be a 'consumer' of aspirational products such as talcum powder, perfumed soap, packaged food, oil, biscuits, etc. Promoting self -hygiene and sanitation, particularly amongst women may actually be in the best interests of the rural marketers and improve their bottom line. A healthier woman would mean a more aware set of consumers with a strong aspirational quotient.
SO WHY NOT JUST BUILD LOTS OF TOILETS?
The Indian sanitation story is not just an access-issue (i.e. access to toilets), rather a mindset-issue. Awareness is a much larger challenge larger than infrastructure.
Construction of more toilets and a rational approach explaining the health and hygiene benefits is just not enough. The mere availability of government-built toilets will not end open defecation. In many cases, toilets constructed in villages are being used as stores, kitchens, shrines and other purposes due to cleaning and maintenance-issues.