Church agencies help end open defecation in Kerala – Posted in UCANIndia,on October 17, 2016
The state is set to be the second in India to end the practice. Local Catholic priest addressing a function in which the Vaikom block of Ernakulam district in Kerala was declared free of open defecation. (Photo supplied)
(Note: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” Parallel to this stands out the thundering Gospel caveat: “You can’t love God whom you cannot see without loving your neighbor created in God’s own image and likeness, especially the poor and marginalized.” Similar is the saying of the great poet, philosopher and spiritual Guru, Tagore exhorting his country men: Leave behind your fanciful murmuring prayers in Churches and temples and go out into the rough fields in the hot sun, where the labourers sweat and toil and plough to discover the “Living God.” These sweating section really heed to the command: “Those who do not work should not eat.”
In brief, construction of five or fifty crores-worth churches and cathedrals to conduct musical extravaganza called liturgy or rituals with sound and light and music is not the way to pray to God. Jesus never exhorted to do that, but to pray in silence, in secret, closing the doors of your five senses and shutting yourself in the cave of your heart. He or his heavenly Father has no ears to listen to a noisy crowd or eyes to see them or heart to enjoy them, imitating well-to-do, white-collar folks who go to theatrical performances for pass time.
Thirty three Catholic dioces in Kerala, according to UCANIndia report, deserve to be congratulated and exalted sky-high for this magnificent cooperation with the “communist-led Government” to speed up a cleanliness programme. Churchmen usually sit and pontificate from their air conditioned cool comfort (Of course we don’t forget here the stray extremely exemplary Prelates and Pastors who trudge the dusty roads accompanying their flock sharing their joys and sorrows) to serve the poor, orphans, lepers, widows, the sick and homeless. Whoever takes seriously a bald head, a soap box orator, giving a publicity oration about the quick route to grow lush hair on all bald heads? In older days it used to be “anathema” for Churchmen to collaborate with Communists and Atheists. Recall to mind the retort of many Communists to these Godmen: “You have made me a Communist!”
Jesus was the first Communist, and the first community of Christians described in the Acts was the exemplar par excellence that preached and practiced real Communism on this God’s earth. Why? Because in that community no one was in want, in need, because they shared everything. They said and did: “All that is mine is yours” unlike the empire building Communists of today who say: “All that is yours is mine,” or for my kith and Kin” Jayarajan style. The commanding rule in the true Communist commune in the Acts was: “To each one according to his/her needs and from each one according to his/her capacities!”
A doctor with high income will then contribute much and the bedridden will have nothing to contribute, but will need everything from the able bodied folks. Where does such communism exist in this world, except in some religious communities, Christian or non-christian? The lesson is that we have to join hands with and collaborate with everyone who does something for the common good without making odious distinctions of class, caste, creed, colour or community. This is what the Catholic dioceses in Kerala are doing now. This deserves to be loaded and imitated by everyone else.
So first the CVC wants to convey its Congrats to Sikkim, in the North for becoming the first defecation free state in India. Secondly congratulations are due to 50,000 self help groups in 33 dioceses working in harmony to make shine Kerala with a second crown, “defecation free state in India”. It has already the crown of “totally literate state in India.” Again to quote the Bible: “The harvest indeed is great and plenty but the labourers are few.” One or two drops don’t make the mighty ocean. Sikkim and Kerala will not make a “Mighty Clean Bharat” because according to UNICEF, “around 564 million people, nearly half of India’s population, still defecate in the open.” May more States follow the example of Sikkim and Kerala to make India great, and our Prime Minister Modi great for conceiving this novel idea and executing it with a vengeance. james kottoor, editor)
Kochi: Church groups in Kerala have joined hands with the Communist-led government to make the south Indian state free from open defecation. The state government, as part of a a federal campaign for a cleaner nation, hopes to eliminate open defecation by the end of October 2016. If Kerala succeeds, it will become the second state in India to achieve this distinction after the northeastern state of Sikkim. About 50,000 self-help groups and social service organizations under 33 Catholic dioceses in the state are working with the government. Their "work has immensely helped the campaign," said K. Vasuki, head of the Suchithwa (cleanliness) Mission, the government agency coordinating the campaign. Only 3 percent of houses in Kerala are without toilets, most of them in hills or in coastal areas. "Some others simply did not want toilets at all," she said, adding that despite being told about the health hazards of open defecation "people were not convinced." Vasuki said church agencies and parishes played "a big role" both in facilitating the construction of toilets in such areas and changing the mindset of people who were against the idea of owning a toilet. "We found the Catholic Church most effective in communicating to the people. The priests in most parishes in the coastal areas identified houses without toilets and ensured their support to build them," she said.
R. S. Ameershah, program officer in charge of the coastal districts of Alappuzha and Ernakulum said Catholic parishes made land available and provided material and human resources to build communal toilets. Father George Vettikkattil, executive director of Kerala Social Service Forum, said self-help groups created awareness about the need to end the practice. "We do not think our job is over with the construction of toilets. We will continue awareness programs to make sure that people use the toilets," he said. According to Vasuki, the program is in its final stages. About 90 percent of the 190,000 toilets needed to achieve "open defecation free status" have been constructed. Six of the 14 districts have already declared an end to open defecation. The government plans to declare the entire state free of open defecation on Nov. 1, when the state celebrates 61 years since it was formed.
The state has invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make the formal declaration. Modi launched the national campaign on Oct. 2, 2014, four months after he came to power. He wanted to clean India’s streets, roads, infrastructure and put a stop to open defecation. The national campaign aims to eliminate open defecation by Oct. 2, 2019, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, father of the Indian nation. According to UNICEF, around 564 million people, nearly half India’s population, defecate in the open.