When it comes to building temples, either in India or in the Diaspora, it seems that we are some sort of world champions. Some Hindu sects are going completely overboard when it comes to building temples. Indeed it can appear to an outsider looking in that various Hindu sects worldwide are trying to outdo one another in their quest to build ever larger and grander temples for their favourite god; they broadcast with pride the figure for the cost of building their temple. The more the cost the prouder they feel. One temple in London cost £12 million to build in the nineties, with material being imported from Italy and Bulgaria, shipped to India for carving and then transported to London.
On the other hand, when it comes to building toilets, successive Indian governments have maintained a stony silence. There has been no movement (no pun) on this front (or behind) since independence. A joint report prepared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF in 2012 showed:
· with 626 million people who practice open defecation, has more than twice the number of the next 18 countries combined;
- accounts for 90 per cent of the 692 million people in South Asia who practice open defecation;
· accounts for 59 per cent of the 1.1 billion people in the world who practice open defecation;
· has 97 million people without access to improved sources of drinking water, second only to China.
· accounts for more than 95% of the progress on sanitation in Eastern Asia;
· has 119 million people without improved drinking water, followed by India (97 million); Nigeria (66 million) and Ethiopia (46 million);
· has 14 million people who practice open defecation, 8th on the list of the top 10 c countries.
Countries that account for almost three-quarters of the people who practice open defecation:
1. India (626 million)
2. Indonesia (63 million)
3. Pakistan (40 million)
4. Ethiopia (38 million)
5. Nigeria (34 million)
6. Sudan (19 million)
7. Nepal (15 million)
8. China (14 million)
9. Niger (12 million)
10. Burkina Faso (9.7 million)
11. Mozambique (9.5 million)
12. Cambodia (8.6 million).
Why is this the case in India? Is it because toilets don’t make money and temples do? Or is it the belief that building temples will grant good karma while building toilets will ensure that you are rewarded in your next incarnation with the avatar of an untouchable? Who knows. The fact remains that for all India’s claim to be shining well over half its population is forced to defecate in the open due to a lack of toilet facilities. And it does not look as if this situation is going to improve any time soon.
Religious groups of all types are quick to build temples, churches and mosques at the drop of a hat. How do they imagine that this is going to improve the lives of the poor? Even in the USA and UK temples are springing up all over the place.
My own view is that if we stopped building places of worship and put the funds thereby saved into building toilets we would be well on our way to alleviating the plight of millions. But toilets, as I have already pointed out do not make money. Temples do. So we should all think carefully before donating money to places of worship. The funds would be better used in providing toilets for the poor. How many toilets can twelve million pounds provide?
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!