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Though I notice it several times a day, today was different. I went jogging at the Marina today and noticed a young guy in a nice T-shirt, shorts & sneakers peeing at the wall nearer to Anna Square. Hardly 10-15 feet to his right was the public toilet. He probably did not want to pay a rupee or did it out of habit. He seemed educated, well-to-do and fit and healthy. Why did he do it ?

I was in Bangkok, Thailand recently and never noticed anyone peeing in the streets at Bangkok. I hardly noticed any beggars either. How did that country manage to clean up its image whilst we Indians still maintain our nauseating behavior? Women too do it in India, though they are more discreet and some sense of modesty prevents them from aping the men ! I feel, unless we have stricter laws to maintain public cleanliness, Indians will continue this behavior. There are free public toilets, shopping centers and other such places where you can easily find a toilet. I have always managed to find one. So why is it that people pee in public and even in such places as subway underpass where its closed and the stink makes it unbearable for people using it to cross the road ? I have no answers.

Most of our schools lack proper toilets and hence children are taught to use compound walls and open areas as toilets. I know since I studied in 12 different schools and most of them lacked a proper toilet. Parents too teach their children to relieve themselves in public. We are a nation with the most unhygienic habits.

I really admire Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak of Sulabh who started building public toilets across India. Most of them are clean and well maintained. However, many people ignore them as you need to pay Rs. 5 or less (which is less than 12 US Cents) to use it. Using their urinal is however free. Unless a major revolution in change of behavior comes about, we will continue portraying an image of backwardness and filth, no matter how swanky our cars and IT buildings appear. We immediately need stricter laws to upkeep public cleanliness.

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