A 26-year-old Mumbai slum dweller was killed Saturday in a spat over a public toilet, the Hindustan Times reports.
According to the police, 42--year-old Santosh Kargutkar took issue with the long time that Simon Ningeri spent on the throne, and after heated words led to a fist fight, kicked Ningeri in the crotch. Nobody seems to know what happened after that, but Ningeri was dead on arrival at a local hospital.
Kargutkar "is suspected to have been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident, and has been arrested on the charge of murder," the paper reports.
Generally, people in India head for the railway tracks or a public park when no toilet is available rather than resorting to homicide. But the toilet shortage is nevertheless no joking matter, as the Atlantic Wire points out. It ain't exactly news to us Delhiwallahs, but Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organization (WTO) is pushing to stop the madness -- even if less than half of the 1.6 million outhouses he's built in India are being used for the purpose they were intended.
Sim isn't afraid to speak frankly about this possibly giggle-inducing topic's importance. "Shit is like fire," Sim says in a documentary about WTO. "If you managed it properly, it cooks your meals. If you don’t manage it properly, it burns down your house."
Various Indian non-government organizations and government bodies, too, are trying to get people to stop defecating outdoors. But it's not easy. According to Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister for Rural Development, the lack of toilets is “the biggest blot on the human development portfolio in India,” Kalpana Sharma writes for the Hindu. One of out every two Indians is forced to defecate in the open, and out of 600,000 villages in India, not more than 25,000 are free from the problem.
The Supreme Court has been forced to intervene on the issue. It is amazing how many times the most basic aspects of development and governance get traction only because the apex court demands action. The court has given all states up to February 28 to build temporary toilets in all schools and permanent ones by March 31. And it has rightly refused to entertain any excuses. So far, only four states — Bihar, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Arunachal Pradesh — have managed to meet 90 per cent of the target. Maharashtra, one of the richer states in this country, is shockingly lax with thousands of schools where there are no toilets for girls and some with no toilets at all.