There were several vital things raised by Modi in his speech that were starkly in contrast to what any other PM ever mentioned so candidly. The most important was invariably the issue of female sanitation and the need for separate toilets for female students in schools. The shocking thing is that in spite of spending thousands of crores on rural sanitation for several years now, India has grossly failed to address the issue of having toilet in every home and separate toilet for female students in schools.
Fact of the matter remains that lack of adequate sanitation facilities have been responsible for both increasing cases of sexual exploitation of women as well as increasing level of dropouts of female students from schools.
In several instances of rape in rural India it was found that the primary reason for the same was the compulsion of the womenfolk to go out of home after dark to relieve themselves, primarily because of the absence of basic toilet facilities at home. The Badaun rape case is a glaring example of that.
The issue of female school dropouts and lack of separate toilet facilities...
In the same league, it is obvious that beyond a certain age, female students in schools would invariably require separate toilets for girls. Successive Government and especially in the last 10 years, for all the thousands of crores spent on National Rural health Mission and Rural Employment Guarantee Schemes, no one ever thought it worthwhile to use rural labor to build separate toilets in schools for daughters of rural India. In fact, lack of separate toilets and complete lack of hygiene in schools can be attributed as one of the primary reasons for high level of school dropouts among female students in rural India.
Modi's Novel Approach....
Modi's emphasis on construction of toilets in schools and appealing the corporate world to contribute towards it is a stark contrast to the stale rhetoric of pledges to alleviate poverty that Indians have got tired of listening for the last so many decades. His proposed scheme namely Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana , aimed at making MPs choose one village with a population of 3,000 to 5,000 and then making it a model village with all facilities of education, sanitation and healthcare is an innovative approach which puts the onus on the MPs to deliver results.
Involving the Corporate World ....
The corporate world does spend a considerable amount of money every year as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR programs. Many such programs of several noted companies are aimed at improving quality of education in schools.
Modi's appeal to corporate world to work towards building toilets in schools is an extremely innovative and smart way of delivering results since corporates are known to be much proactive and more efficient in terms of spending their money on social development project than states.
Enthused by Modi's appeal, IT major Tata Consultancy Limited or TCS and Bharti Foundation of Bharti Enterprise have already pledged in Rs 100 crore each for Prime Minister's ‘Clean India Initiative'. Media reports state that many other corporate giants like HUL, Dabur, Adani, ITC and Aditya Birla Group, most of which are major spenders on CSR have also shown keen interest in pitching in for this novel initiative of PM. TCS alone has pledged to build sanitation facilities in 10,000 schools.
Rural India needs many such systemic issues to be addressed by PMO....
Giving stress on sanitation and hygiene in rural India can go a long way in not just decreasing incidences of several diseases but also the construction of separate toilets can go a long way in making female students feel more confident in going to school once again. There is no denial of the fact that increasing female literacy and empowering rural women through more education is key to many social reforms that are needed in rural India.
The fact that Modi could relate between the issues of female student drop-outs from schools and the lack of hygienic and separate sanitation facilities in schools is a reflection of his grassroots connection and his penchant for locating systemic problems rather than harping on the rhetoric.
Grassroots problems of rural India have many such systemic issues and solving them with the help of corporate initiatives and direct intervention by PMO would go a long way in making rural India more productive than what it is today.
All that rural India need is an enabling environment with adequate support systems in terms of infrastructure that is available to urban India. If Modi succeeds in replacing the UPA legacy of populism with developing of an institutional framework in rural India, Bharat then would never have to look back ever again. And that would be known as the best gift of Modi.