“It is not just about ideas, but about making ideas happen.” Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, a pioneering biotech entrepreneur, CMD of Biocon, Asia’s leading bio-pharmaceuticals enterprise and Chairperson of IIMB has got both – Ideas and the best of the skill sets to translate the same…Her Ideas which begin from enzymatic developments cross through all corners of life, be it sanitation, healthcare or educational architecture of the country. And, this is what makes her one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Kiran shares her ideas and initiatives during an interaction with Editor-in-Chief Mangala Chandran.
Post our Prime Minister’s “build toilet” initiative, CSR programmes by many organisations are getting limited to constructing community / school toilets.
Narendra Modi has raised a very, very important issue for the country and that is making India Open Defecation Free by 2019. This is quite a tall claim and indeed a commendable mission. I certainly believe that he is focusing on the right thing as open defecation is a huge burden on the country in terms of health, sanitation and disease. Fifty percent of our population actually defecates in the open and this is absolutely unacceptable. Obviously, the only way to address open defecation is to build toilets, so the agenda and the thinking are perfectly in the right direction.
The Prime Minister wants to reach out to the private sector basically to get help to build toilets. But the corporates should not end up just building toilets.
Let me start with my own experience.
Long before the government thought about addressing open defecation issue, I embarked on a toilet project in 2005 in one of the villages called Huskur in the outskirts of Bangalore. This was a Biocon Foundation project; we decided to set up a community toilet block in Huskur village for men and women and till today it serves a very good purpose. We also realized that building a community toilet is not enough but maintaining it is going to be very crucial. We gave the management of the community toilet to the local people, paid them a salary to maintain the block. And we also realized that water was a big issue, and we ensured uninterrupted water supply.
Today that community toilet in fact is able to service not only the villagers but also over 5000 visitors coming in for the Ayappa temple festival nearby.
In 2006, the government had introduced a scheme of giving a subsidy of `1000- `2000 for building a toilet, though each toilet costs `10,000-12,000 to build. . However, we encouraged the panchayats to avail of the subsidy by supporting them with the rest of the amount. As I am the Honorary Consul for Ireland, we ensured around 800 individual toilets were built in Huskur with aid from the Irish government.
We made each household get involved in some activity or the other of building the toilets so that they could feel the ownership. We also taught the villagers how to use the toilets.
So, today if you go to Huskur village you will see the toilets still being used very well. The government has now increased the subsidy.
Now, personally I believe that the government should use CSR to basically catalyse or run pilots for these toilet projects. The government has to find a way to ensure that it motivates people to build individual toilets and encourages the private sector in coming up with very innovative designs and installing these toilets that are better than the conventional ones. That will ensure the better use of CSR money. Today, if you build conventional toilets, we know that the septic tank would not work after some time. CSR money could be used for building effluent treatment plants. It can be a public private partnership where the government provides the money to build the toilets and the private sector constructs sewage treatment plants and also makes sure all the sewage lines are properly connected to the treatment plants.
This is an excellent suggestion.Talking of building toilets, some villages still resist having them…
Yes. Even in Huskur village once or twice we did find that people were covering the commode and using the toilet as an extra room. Later on, they realized their mistake when they saw other people were using it as toilet. We need to educate them, we have to tell people that open defecation can lead to diseases.