World Toilet Day, A Failed Mission

World Toilet Day, November 19, is a United Nations international observance day to create awareness about the abysmal sanitary conditions of 4.2 billion people and the open defecation of around 673 million people worldwide. The situation in our country is no better where millions continue to defecate in the open despite the tall claims of the central government of having constructed over a crore toilets in rural areas. In Goa too, around 72,000 bio-toilets were expected to be constructed in 2018 to make Goa Open Defecation Free (ODF) under the ‘Swachh Bharat’ cleanliness drive, but what we see around is a different story altogether. On November 13, ‘The Navhind Times’ published a report about tourists in the Calangute-Candolim beach belt defecating in the open because the contractor in charge of the public toilets was overcharging them. The toilets were also in a deplorable condition with broken doors and poor maintenance and left in a stinking condition despite a whopping Rs 2 crore spent for the construction of each toilet under the Swadeshi Darshan scheme of the central government. This is the sad state of affairs in a state officially declared to be Open Defecation Free.


Implement Common Cadre For Panchayats

It has been a long time since the common cadre for village panchayats was introduced in the state legislative assembly and unanimously passed. However, it has still not seen the light of the day. I want to share my personal experience at the village panchayat of Santo Estevam where I had filed a Right to Information (RTI) application in the morning on November 17, 2020. After the acceptance of the application at the panchayat, somehow people not even associated with the matter were tipped off. Similar incidences may be occurring in other panchayats too wherein residents of the same village are hired at the local panchayat level. There is a high probability that the hired persons are acquainted with everyone in the village and private information is shared with all and sundry. This is a clear violation of the confidentiality of the information sought by an applicant. I understand that RTI is a confidential document for an individual, who files it, and it is not to be made public even before the response is given. It would be in the fitness of things if the Panchayats Minister, without any further delay, implements the common cadre for panchayats in the interest of the general public.


Learning To Live In COVID Times

Even a year after the first known cases of coronavirus were reported in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in China, the situation today couldn’t be said to be anything better. But as the microbe continues to upset the calculations of the global scientific community, which is involved in a race against time to find an effective antidote to counter the potent virus, people have already resigned themselves to the fact that as an inevitable part of their lives the coronavirus is here to stay for an indefinite period. However, with each passing day, it is the foolishness shown by the people for appropriating the phrase ‘living with the virus’ to suit their lifestyle during these troubled times that has become more alarming than the pandemic itself. Even after all these months of devastating retribution that has described the spread of the disease, if the fervour shown for celebrating various festivals and other joyous occasions with the customary zest associated with them is anything to go by, it can only be said that the people are yet to grasp the seriousness of the epidemiologic damage caused. Tourists milling around beaches and other ‘happening’ places in the state seem to convey the message that everything is hunky-dory now and that the pandemic is just an unfortunate event from our immediate past. This false sense of security which presumably drives the pretentious confidence evident among people these days to disregard all safety protocols and ‘enjoy’ life to the fullest will only hasten us to the precipice of another disaster far more perilous than the one we are experiencing right now. As viral threats to human health loom large, mankind is destined to encounter dangers unrecognised and unheard of with every passing day. Of course, viruses are not things that we can fight, they are things you learn to live with, treat and mitigate.