A concrete plan for Modi to curb rape: implement the 'toilets over temples' promise

Building more toilets won't end sexual assaults. But it will make millions of people thankful.
The usually Twitter-happy Prime Minister Narendra Modi has thus far maintained a stoic silence on the rape crisis in Uttar Pradesh, but Maneka Gandhi, his Minister for Women and Child Development, has not. On Monday, Gandhi said she would not visit Badaun, the district in which two girls were gang-raped and murdered last week, because she preferred to work towards a concrete plan to improve the situation instead of going to look at a tree. "When I look at photos of politicians under the tree, I cringe with embarrassment," she said.

Here's one way the PM and Maneka Gandhi can save themselves from further embarrassment. There might be more complex issues underlying rape, such as power, identity and an appetite for violence. But there is also the concrete problem that made the gang rapes of Badaun possible: the lack of toilets.

Here's a gentle nudge towards a concrete plan for the PM: the NGO Sulabh has already promised a toilet in every home in Katara, the village where the girls were hanged from a tree. Fund more toilets. It won't end sexual violence, but according to a 2011 survey, more than 814 million people will immediately be thankful for it.

It is surprising that the Centre is taking so long to swing this plan into action, since Modi promised not too long ago that it was going to be "toilets over temples" in his tenure, and since Sulabh has already made 54 million toilets for the  government in the past.

What's more, Sulabh toilets can cost as little as Rs 800 to construct. They are made with locally available materials, and their designs are adaptable to different kinds of homes and soil conditions. They curb mosquito breeding (bonus points for the government! ) and require approximately two litres of water as compared to the septic tank system's 14. Finally, Sulabh toilets do not require manual scavenging but can be cleaned by individual homeowners.

Next week: streetlights.

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