This Article is From Oct 09, 2013

Inventing a better toilet for India, funded by Bill Gates

File picture of Bill Gates

New Delhi: The remarks over toilets may have led to war of words between Narendra Modi and Jairam Ramesh, but the issue of sanitation, which was at the core of this tussle, seems to have finally found the attention that it deserves.

Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Bill Gates, through his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has launched "reinvent the toilet challenge - India" in collaboration with the Government of India. The foundation is inviting innovative sanitation technologies, to develop sustainable sanitation solutions which will help not just India but other developing countries.

"Last year we issued a call to reinvent the toilet. Now we're issuing one specifically for #India," Mr Gates tweeted today.

Poor sanitation has often been described as India's biggest failure. An estimated one billion people defecate in the open in the world and India is home to 638 million of these - over 50 per cent of the population.

Also, 60 per cent of the world's population without access to a toilet are in India.

Ruby Devi in Bihar is one of those millions. Her husband is a labourer, she says they don't have enough money to build a toilet.

"We have little money, shall we use it buy food or build a toilet? It is very difficult. Our girls have are forced to use the open backyard," she says.

The curse of poverty deprives these people of basic sanitation which leads to many health hazards.

A recent UNICEF report showed that poor sanitation is responsible for the stunting the growth of 62 million children under the age of five in India.

According to the World Bank, all this adds up to billions and costs India a loss of $54 billion dollars a year.

Toilets over temples, at least seems to be one issue the Congress and the BJP appear to be agreeing on, but will the focus lent by this war of words, followed by the Gates-government initiative, result in improvement on the ground for millions of Indians?