Oct 10, 2012
The state of open defecation is disturbing for womenfolk, says actor Vidya Balan, stressing that a lot of effort is required to bring about change.
To ensure proper sanitation in rural India and make the country open-defecation free, India’s minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh launched the Nirmal Bharat Yatra (Sanitation campaign) from Sevagram in Wardha district of the country’s western state of Maharashtra.
Aiming to reach around 90 million people, the yatra will travel a distance of 2,000 km through villages from Maharashtra to Bihar, passing through six towns including Indore, Kota, Gwalior and Gorakhpur. The yatra will end in Bettiah town in the West Champaran of India’s eastern state of Bihar on November 19. (The cities have been associated Mahatama Gandhi, notably, Champaran and Sevagram. The latter city is famous for the 'Quit India' movement started by the apostle of non-violence.
Vidya Balan, Bollywood actor whose role in ‘Dirty Picture has won her wide acclaim is the brand ambassador of the Indian government's sanitation programme. Balan, who has agreed to campaign for two years with her involvement in the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, a programme to address the sanitation crisis in India, said she was very happy to get associated with this great national cause and called for greater participation of the people to set the country free from the stigma of ‘open defecation’.
Talking to media at the launch of the campaign late-September, Balan spoke of the pain she felt on being informed that 65 percent of rural India had no toilet facilities. She also endorsed the slogan of the ad-campaign, Jahan Soch, wahan Shauchalay. “There is a wide gap between the urban and rural areas in terms of infrastructure, but we can hopefully see big changes visible in the coming years. It is particularly disturbing for womenfolk. There have been many instances where women have left the localities of their in-laws which did not have the proper toilet facilities.” she said.
Talking to OneWorld South Asia, as to how fruitful her association has been with the campaign so far, she said, “It is almost impossible for me to comment on this at the moment. Let me spend some more time with the campaign then only will I be able to tell how fruitful it (her association with the campaign) has been”.
On her association with the campaign, the actor said that only a change in mindset of people could bring a real change. “Daily, we are approached to endorse several issues. Though no cause is otherwise small, but I thought which could be a better way to serve the nation than getting associated with this campaign. Our circumstances are very far from the rural realities,” she said, adding, “We hear lots of statistics regarding this but it does not affect our lives to the extent that we do something about it. When it comes to toilets, our mindset is a biggest impediment in doing something in this regard.”
“Lot of effort and time will be required to make the clean picture,” she said.