India's tough 'toilet challenge'
But even after 67 years of independence, more than half of India doesn't seem to have realised the importance of toilets.
According to government's Total Sanitation Programme data, around 54.7% households in the country are yet to own a toilet in their house.
The United Nations Organisation has declared November 19 as World Toilet Day - a day to discuss and understand the relevance of toilets in the development of a nation and a society.
Take a walk around any farm area (except in few states) early in the morning to see the sanitation condition of rural India. Open defecation is treated as very much normal and most of the people in villages don't think they need toilets.
A UN data released in 2010 had an interesting observation - there are more mobile phones in India than toilets. Echoing this, Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Jairam Ramesh, said, "a country that has 700 million mobiles, accounts for 60% of open defecation in the world".
Some of the major reasons for open defecation is unavailablility of proper toilets, water scarcity and lack of proper awareness.
Families below poverty line are given Rs 9200 subsidy for constructing toilets. Of the amount, central government provides Rs. 3,200, the State gives Rs. 1,500. The remaining amount will be met in the form of wages for 26 days of labour under the MNREGA.
Karnataka stands at 8th rank in India with 53 % coverage in rural sanitation
According to Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, government's programme to solve 'toilet crisis' in India, by 2017 the country will be declared as free from open defecation.
But there are widespread allegations that the subsidy given is often spent on other things. Sometimes the toilet is constructed but is used as store house or godown. This is mainly because the sanitation programme lacks people's participation.
According to some experts, rapid deforestation and urbanisation has led to decrease in open defecation. But to know that 34,000 households in Bangalore city have no toilets is shocking. Also, a survey by zilla panchayat reveals that only 37% of households have toilets in Dharwad, the city which is known as the cultural capital, of Karnataka.
According to Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan report, Karnataka stands at eighth position in the country with 53 % coverage in rural sanitation. As in 2012, 34,70,904 families in Karnataka are yet to have toilets in their house.
Kerala, with 87 per cent coverage, occupies the first place while Jammu and Kashmir, with 31 per cent coverage, stands last.
In a no-toilet society, women suffer the most.
As Jairam Ramesh said, "Toilets are womens fundamental right, for her privacy and dignity".
Anita Narre, a woman from rural Madhya Pradesh, had created headlines in media across the globe for her struggle for sanitation.
A newlywed Anita left her husband's house two days after the wedding as the family didn't have a toilet in the house as they had promised.
Moved by her courage and having understood the importance of toilets, the husband's family immediately gathered money and built a toilet. Eight days later, Anita returned to her husband's house.
Women can lead the sanitation movement in India, observes Jairam Ramesh, citing Anita's fight.
A 2011 CRY survey in cities including Bangalore, said that "toilets remains the single most commonly voiced concern for girl students and their parents across India among the lower-income group."
Parents hesitate to sent their gilr children to schools and anganwadis which don't have toilets. Around 30 percent of the girls in Karnataka has either not gone to school or are dropouts, says the survey.
According to a Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan data, only around 56 percent of the schools in Karnataka have separate toilets for girls as of the end of 2011. This has had a huge effect on the dropout rate. There has been an 11 percent dropout rate in secondary education in government schools from 2009 to 2011, says the report.
Also, constructing public toilets for women across the nation can bring a lot of difference. Having a women's toilet near the workplace can improve women's ability to work. It gives them more confidence.
Over the years, toilets have acquired a more important status. They indicate how civilised and educated a nation is.
A society in which men and women have separate toilets, all well-maintained and well-accessible, is by far, more progressed, than a society in which everyone owns a mobile phone.
(With agency inputs)