India’s Government is Shaming Citizens – Into Using Toilets

India’s Government is Shaming Citizens – Into Using Toilets

India’s government has recently been on a public toilet bender, building up the country’s potty infrastructure rapidly as a part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Clean India” mission.

Littering the countryside in lavatories was the easy part. Getting people to use them is the challenge.

But, India is using a unique tactic to get people back on the potty – shaming them.

The aggressive campaign mocks citizens who are no longer poor, yet continue to defecate in open areas. This is common practice in India’s rural areas, despite the growing wealth and adaptations to modern life.

Television commercials and billboards are plastering that message everywhere, juxtaposing the world’s fastest-growing major economy beside citizens relieving themselves wherever they please.  The ads actually mock the idea that India is quickly developing: “Only the habit of using a toilet is real progress.”

C’mon, that’s pretty clever.

And if that doesn’t make these defecating cavaliers embarrassed, the fact that these taunts come from children should.

“Uncle, you wear a tie around your neck, shoes on your feet, but you still defecate in the open. What kind of progress is this?” one child questions. Another says, “You may have a smartphone in your hand, but you still squat on train tracks.”

Kids really do say the darnedest things.

The social practice of freelance pooping comes from the centuries-old caste system, where cleaning human excrements was a job for the lowliest castes. So, having a toilet in your home is still seen as unclean by a lot of villagers. They still feel going to the bathroom in areas like open farmland, which harbours water-borne diseases, is the way to go, even though it’s the second leading cause of death to Indian children under 5.

This is the first time India has tried to shame their citizens into cleaning up their act, though it isn’t the first time they’ve attempted to eradicate the National-Lampoon’s-Animal-House-behaviour.

For example, from 2006 to 2012, the government awarded villages – nearly 6,000 of them – for moving to toilet usage. Many have since relapsed to the outdoor approach, as they saw no incentive to continue the potty practice.

In another bizarre campaign, brides were actually asked to shun grooms who refused to coerce to toilet usage. Rural men were admonished for having veiled women in their families defecate outside. The campaign had an unexpected fallout, in that toilets in many villages were seen as important to women only, not men.

The government hopes its tweaks will modernize India a bit. They don’t plan to continue rapidly progressing with new technology, or resources, or discoveries – but with some good ol’ fashioned potty training.

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