53% and 600 million

53% is the number of households who defecate in the open in India. This is according to a World Bank study. So about 300 million women have no access to toilets. The two young teenagers who were gang raped and hung on a mango tree had stepped out of their homes to relieve themselves. This is probably the only time women step out of their homes alone and thus become easy prey to sexual predators. One of the village women revealed candidly that Men go out in the day, so women can go only early in the morning or late at night.

The likes of us cannot even begin to imagine what life can be without access to a toilet. I remember a friend of mine, who was spearheading a nutrition programme for pregnant and lactating mothers, being told by the very group that she was targeting, that they would not alter their eating pattern in anyway as they had 'trained' their bodies to be in sync with the 3 to 4 am slot the women of their village were given to defecate in the field.

That was just an aparte.

Let us go back to the link between rapes and lack of toilet facilities. Maybe a sensible thing would be to initiate a massive time bound programme to ensure that every home has access to a safe toilet 24/7/365!  A community led Total Sanitation Campaign is in existence since 1999 but it seems as always to have been lost in translation.

As I have often held we are masters at quick fix solutions and crisis management and once again this is what seems to be happening once again. Even before one could say Jack Robinson, a leading NGO working on sanitation has 'decided' to  construct toilets in all the houses of Katra Shahadatganj village of Baduan, where two sisters were allegedly gangraped and murdered last week while they went to relieve themselves in fields. I wonder how many rapes it has taken for them to decide to take such action and above all why the previous Governments have not given this critical problem the attention it needed. It is estimated that India needs 120 million toilets. Time to address this with urgency.

It is said that 60% of the rapes in the state of UP where the horrific crime occurred. We have smart statistics and even quote them but what have we done about the issue. You would not believe me but many of the project why children who live in slums like the one in the picture do not have access to toilets. The 'water tank' you see in the picture is empty. It was the water tank atop a community toilet that must have once been inaugurated with much fanfare and lauded as an achievement, and then abandoned as it had got the initiator the brownie points sought. The families in the area use the railway tracks or any kind of privacy they can conjure. This is South Delhi.

Today Shining India cuts a sorry figure across the world. The US stated : it is "horrified" at reports of sexual violence and murders in India! The UN Chief is  appalled by the brutal rape and gruesome murder of two teenaged women in India who had ventured out because they did not have access to a toilet.

How many times are we going to hand our heads in shame and then get on with our lives.

An interesting article in today's newspaper sums up the situation spot on. it states: So instead of flinching, keep looking for clues to how dalits are seen by far too many 'other village folks' in those upsetting photographs until you are horrified enough to do something about it. I wonder howling it will take in a scenario where those at the helm quip 'boys will be boys' not realising that such words travel faster than light and what may have bees said on the spur of the moment within a contact - the now jaded excuse of every politician who says an inanity - and become a reflection on us all and compelled the United Nations Secretary General to state: We say no to the dismissive, destructive attitude of ‘Boys will be boys’. Together, we can empower more people to understand that violence against women degrades us all. It is very shameful for us Indians to have to hear this, when we as a collective conscience should have been the ones to cry out loud.

So we will build toilets in a frenzy that will soon peter out. But let me ask you whether you really believe that building toilets will stop predators from prowling. They will simply have to look elsewhere. We cannot keep all likely to be raped  women shut in a country where you can be raped at 70  years of age or if you are a few months old!

You do not want rape to happen than build toilets and lock every female - from birth to death - away! I have a better solution kills us all, and then live and grow old till the last man standing. End of the story

If you are raped it is always your fault. In the city it is your clothes, your life style etc that incites rape and in the villages it is your caste, as is that gives the feudal lord and his kiln the right to ravage you. In the article mentioned above and aptly entitled Until we recognise caste atrocities for what they are, they will continue unabated as in Badaun, the author looks at the horrific scene from the likes of us's point of view and says While we take in the contents of these photographs — of the two teenage girls who were raped and then left hanging from a tree last week in Katra Shadat Ganj village in Uttar Pradesh's Badaun district — we also quietly take in a different set of information: so these are dalits in a UP village in 2014 India. Our brain searches and fails to find any distinguishing feature to mark it as a gathering of dalits. So this is how dalits look like, we tell ourselves.

True we may sort of connect with the short dress, smoking and drinking view but a girl like the one hanging on the tree does quite tick as to us caste remains a vague notion that happens in some other world! As the author states What the display in Badaun underlines is caste not just as demographic pie charts or identifiable target groups for social welfare programmes, but also as an all-too-visible bar code for higher castes in vast swathes of our sovereign socialist secular democratic republic to identify prey. Whether we like it or not, this dehumanising tradition thrives in many parts of our land.

Many of my colleagues belong are Dalits and believe you me, they have qualities that I have rarely found in the supposed high castes! Yet they tell me how even today in their villages they are not aloud to draw water from the main village well; they have to get off their bicycle when they passed in front of the house of a high caster person; they cannot smoke in front of any person of a higher caste; their wedding parties with horse, band and music can only happen outside the village. After they hanse danced and frolicked, the music stops, the groom gets of his horse and the wedding party moved quietly across the village to the house of the bride. No wonder many now chose to have their weddings in the city by hiring wedding halls and playing their music to their heart's content!

But this is the reality of India version 2014. This is happening a few kilometres away from where we live. It is time we took on our responsibilities and dirtied our hands. In 2014 we chose democracy over family rule. It is not enough to celebrate a PM who has risen from the soil, it is time every Indian enjoys the same rights and above all the right to true freedom.