New Delhi — Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh today described India as the “dirtiest and filthiest” country in the world where people with mobile phones go out to answer the “call of nature”.
The comment was the latest addition to the minister’s repertoire of controversial statements on a gamut of subjects ranging from education and research to sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and sanitation.
Ramesh, who last month said open defecation was a “blot” and a “shame”, returned to the topic as he highlighted what he called a “paradox”.
“In one area in which India can claim success in the social sector is education. We can’t say the same thing in health, we can’t say the same thing in nutrition, we certainly can’t say the same thing in sanitation because we do remain the dirtiest and filthiest country,” he said.
He said around 65 per cent of rural houses had been provided with toilets but didn’t use them. “Today, if you go to many parts of India, you have women with a mobile phone going out to answer the call of nature. I mean it is paradoxical,” the minister, who also holds charge of sanitation, said at an event here.
“You have a mobile phone and you don’t have a toilet. When you have a toilet, you don’t use the toilet… (but) use it as a godown.”
Last month he had said it was a “blot” on India and a “shame” on everyone that the country had the highest rate of open defecation in the world.
According to a WHO survey, Indians account for 58 per cent of the world’s population practising open defecation. China is a distant second, accounting for about 7 per cent.
The minister, who has sought an increased allocation to address the problem of open defecation, said the biggest challenge was how to educate people about sanitation and cleanliness.
The Centre and states spend about Rs 2,400 crore a year on sanitation. While the Centre spends Rs 2,000 crore, the states contribute around Rs 400 crore.
The ministry has decided to set up community toilets, which villages will maintain.
As environment minister, Ramesh had said use of SUVs in a country like India was a crime. He said diesel was subsided primarily for farmers. Some of the costlier SUVs run on the poor man’s fuel.
At a convocation programme, Ramesh had taken off his robe, saying the gowns were a sign of “colonial slavery”. Earlier this year, he had said there was “hardly any worthwhile research” in the IITs and that teachers in the tech schools were not “world-class”