'India’s sanitation crisis is the biggest in the world'

According to Jack Sim, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat movement is a historic moment to transform India into a healthy nation 

By Jitendra
Published: Monday 05 October 2015

Jack Sim founded the World Toilet Organization in 2001 by breaking the taboo associated with sanitation through his unique blend of humour and seriousness. In an email interview to Down To Earth, Sim speaks about India’s sanitation challenge and his plan to start a toilet college in Andhra Pradesh. Such an experiment has already been done in Singapore to promote sustainable toilets.

What is the idea behind the World College Toilet? How it is different from other colleges?

The World Toilet College is a programme which can be offered in suitable universities or training institutes. It involves a wide range of issues such as sanitation technologies, management, cleaning know-how, business models, public education behavioural changes and policy matters. It will start with short-term courses for immediate applications for practitioners at all levels.

Has this kind of experiment been done in any other part of the world? How has it helped in countering poor sanitation?

The World Toilet College concept started in Singapore and trained many professional cleaners. It also conducted courses in China and Indonesia. The curriculum received inputs from Japan, Sweden, Singapore, Germany, India and Holland.

Why has India been chosen for this college? How it will function here?

India’s sanitation crisis is the biggest in the world. (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat movement is a very historic moment to transform India into a healthy nation of productive people. Training and education are needed for everyone to carry out their jobs professionally. The World Toilet College mission will help all stakeholders become efficient and effective in their efforts towards a successful Swachh Bharat Mission.

India’s problem of sanitation is connected with culture. Here, people enjoy defecating in the open. They feel it obnoxious to keep toilets at home. How will you overcome this problem?

We have a comprehensive behavioural change strategy that will be rolled out soon to address the current open-defecation habit. We will be repositioning the toilet as a status symbol much desired by all.

The government has cut huge funds for Swachh Bharat Mission and made it appear like a media event. How will this initiative of yours connect with people?

We are starting the project in Andhra Pradesh and Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu is fully committed to it. He is urgently pushing the SBM target delivery. We are confident about Andhra Pradesh. Once the state is seen as a model of sanitation excellence, all other states will follow because a success model is easier to follow.

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