The lack of public toilets in Rajasthan’s Karauli market poses severe public health and economic challenges for residents.Karauli market and the surrounding area is densely-populated. Due to the lack of toilets, men and women are forced to urinate and defecate in open public spaces. Water-born diseases, transported via the district's polluted sewage system, circulate throughout the area. Residents fear tourists will be repelled from the market, causing an important source of income to drop.
This is just one example of what government officials have now referred to as a national sanitation crisis. More than half of India’s 203 million households do not have access to proper sanitation. 75 percent of India’s surface water is contaminated by human waste. Dysentery, typhoid, malaria, cholera and other dangerous diseases spread rapidly as a result. Children are some of the most severely effected. According to the World Health Organization, 1000 children die everyday in India due to diarrhea-related illnesses.
Karauli’s key tourism sector is threatened by the lack of pubic sanitation. Known for its famous temples, Karauli attracts throngs of tourists every year to its historic sites and open market. The money tourists spend serves as a significant source of Karauli residents’ income. However, many fear the city’s increasingly pressing public sanitation problem could discourage tourists from coming.
As we see in Sunita’s video, residents have filed official complaints with the district’s Municipal Council. These complaints have been largely ignored. The responsibility to construct the necessary public sanitation infrastructure is split between multiple government bodies, including the Municipal Council and the Urban Rural Development council. The ambiguity in this process allows individual elected representatives to evade responsibility for the issue.
Community media provides a new way to put pressure on government authorities to respond to key community concerns, such as public sanitation. As we see in Sunita’s video, she asks the Municipal Council representative about the Council’s actions on camera. While official complaints are otherwise made in closed-door offices, Sunita’s report allows her to share her community’s concern with an external audience. This increased exposure can leverage pressure on elected officials to follow through on campaign promises. When taken on a national (or even global) scale, community media can contribute to creating an environment of greater accountability across the country.
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