Where India Goes — Danish Prakash

Where India Goes

I don’t exactly remember why I picked this book up but I wasn’t too glad when I finished the first chapter. I then trudged through it little by little but eventually picked up the pace along the third chapter, I think. This book quite literally explains why India, among other developing and poor nations, has the highest rates of open defecation. Time and again, we hear of new programs which aim to tackle open defecation in rural India but that’s the end of it, no follow-ups.

But the underlying reason why India, of all the poor nations, cannot rid herself of open defecation is not that they don’t have access to latrines, which a lot of people come to accept, including me hitherto. It’s the undying caste system. And the moment I read this sentence, this quote from Annihilation Of Caste came to mind:

“Caste is not merely a division of labour, it’s a division of labourers.”

And I somehow knew the rest of the story. It’s baffling that in this day and age, a stark fraction of people still believe in untouchability, to the point of defiantly admitting it in surveys, as shown in the book. The researchers/authors present data as to how people who defecate in the open, affect you and others around them. How infants who grow up in an environment where there’s open defecation–if they indeed survive–grow up to be adults who perform lower in various metrics including, but not limited to, health and career.

It’s sobering and I don’t think I ever looked at open defecation through any other lens than that of cleanliness, let alone untouchability. But here we are, the caste system affecting yet another aspect of lives in rural India. An eye-opener of a book.