Guwahati, February 1:
Well, a couple of months ago when I was touring Europe, I met an Indian couple based in California. They too were tourists. We were in Switzerland visiting a village in the mountains. We were all awed by the beauty Switzerland had to offer. This couple wanted to know from which part of India I belong to. When I mentioned Assam they shared their interest in visiting North East India but as they are unsure about the facilities tourists can access so were undecided.
Facilities and infrastructure are some of the very frequently mentioned words of the politicians and the bureaucracy. Assam can take pride in infrastructure development as of now. Besides flyovers and roads, mushroom growth of hotels, roadside eateries, dhabas, etc. are happening in every nook and corner of the state.
However,cleanliness and clean sanitation is one important factor in which the state is lagging far behind and also ignored. Be it in roads, public places, hotels ,eateries.etc.Moreover, clean toilets are hard to find. Airports, train stations, bus stands, trains are certain places where tourists expect certain standard of cleanliness. Even though almost all petrol stations offer toilet facilities for travelers, but unfortunately,in most places the toilets are extremely dirty and ill maintained. Of course, for us Assamese ,that functional toilets are now available in the highways is a great blessing. I remember back in the late 90s and early and mid 20s when I had to travel across the state by road for official work finding a toilet to relieve myself was a great pain. Of course during those days finding a place even to have lunch and at some places even a cup of tea☕ was also difficult. The situation has improved leaps and bounds as of date. But still not at par with desirable standards and a long long way to go for achieving minimum standards in cleanliness and hygiene.
Maintenance of any infrastructure, be it tiny or palatial, is the key to sustainability. I have seen many small and big infrastructures shutting down due to lack of maintenance. Costly accessories turning unusable due to lack of cleaning skills is a very common sight in hotels, restaurants, hospitals, etc.in Assam. Most of us Indians have a strange perception. For us, when we build a new infrastructure , be it home, hotels, restaurants, hospital, the least priority area is the sewage and drainage system, garbage disposal system .Toilets are big but water outlets are clogged or water outflow from toilets is defective due to unscientific planning and construction by unskilled persons.
What I want to emphasize upon is that if we want to improve our tourism, hospitality and service sector, we have to improve on the standards of cleanliness and sanitation.
For this,we need to open a school which will teach the skills of cleaning modern toilets, modern kitchens with updated and modern gadgets. The trained cleaners to be recruited with good wages.
Toilet construction is also a science if toilets are to be made user friendly and of easy and low maintenance. Roadside plumbers and laborers cannot simply construct user friendly public toilets. Permission granting authorities should be sensitized on this aspect. Rather a standardized design should be developed for construction of public toilets. Plumbers and designers are to be trained in these schools.
The role of the general public is very crucial in this regard. The other day I was disgusted to see used menstrual disposable napkins being dumped in the floor of the otherwise clean toilet because the owner of the facility did not place a waste bin in the toilet. Nowadays the number of woman travellers have increased many folds. Waste bins in women toilets should be made mandatory.There are government sanitary inspectors,food safety inspectors.The roles of these personnel should be reworked and they should be made responsible for ensuring compliance. Another very common observation is that toilet flushes and water out flow should be functional and not the other way. And the worst part is that the non-functional flushes are never repaired in most public toilets.
Spitting is a common , nuisance habit in our area. In the gated society that I live, the security guards have the habit of chewing tobacco and paan. Therefore a bin filled with sand was placed near the guard booth for spitting.However, these guards spit everywhere in the campus except in the designated place.
Thus, using dustbins is a habit to be incorporated in the early formative years of children. In government schools and even in many private schools dustbins are not used. In few cases dustbins are introduced but due to lack of a disposal system of the garbage the dustbins remain unutilized . The school curriculum must include importance of cleanliness in home and outside. Students need to be taught about cleaning techniques and standards.Teachings on use of modern toilets to leave it usable for the next person should be included in school curricula.By the way ,whatever techniques the school children in the state had been taught in the recent past years, like the six steps of handwashing before eating food and after using the toilet was initiated by the health department in Assam in collaboration with education and public health engineering departments to reduce diorrheal outbreaks in the state.
Nowadays, a huge number of women work outside home. Therefore it is extremely important to place a disposal system for used sanitary pad in public toilets.
Sanitation is an issue which was taken up by the Prime Minister of the country himself. Sanitation is a way of life. Good sanitation habits have to be ingrained into the culture and mindset of the population.
Swachh Bharat or Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Campaign Clean India) is a national level campaign by the Government of India covering 4041 statutory towns to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country.