Paid to pee in toilet

Only in India, where people ease themselves in public places can a scheme that pays one to pee in a toilet work, observes PEGGY LOH

“DO NOT URINATE HERE” – the signs in English capital letters and Tamil were repeated on several places on the outer wall of the hotel I stayed in Chennai.

Each day when I returned to the hotel, I could not help but notice the signs outside. It did not take me long to figure out why those signs were necessary.

During my two-week stay in South India, I travelled in and around the city mostly in non-air conditioned vehicles so I experienced the full blast of blazing summer heat and the accompanying sights, sounds and smells of the steamy streets. One of the most distinctive smells must be that of saturated, stale urine.

Even today, toilets are unheard of in villages. In the over populated city, there are just insufficient public toilets. So the city streets are their toilets and it is a social norm for everyone – men, women and children – to conveniently ease themselves wherever and whenever! And because the sign was also in English, I was alarmed with the thought of needing to remind even the English educated not to urinate on public property!

I can understand that when you have to go, you have to go. And for this reason alone, I appreciate the public toilets we have in Malaysian cities. For a small fee, we can find comfort and relief in relatively clean public toilets at almost every corner of our cities.

Here, while we pay to use toilets, a recent report from South India said that people were paid to pee in toilets!

I read with much interest, a Times of India report where residents of Musiri, a small village near Tiruchi, were profiting from this because each time they peed in toilets, they received 10 paise, which is equivalent to our 77 sen!

Working in collaboration with the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, the Society for Community Organization and People’s Education (SCOPE) initiated the idea to encourage people in the lower middle-class to use eco-sanitation toilets and the urine collected will be used for research – to test if it makes a good liquid fertiliser!

The novelty of the project first attracted many people but they have also realised the health benefits of toilets and stopped using public places to relieve themselves. In fact, many people have started using toilets after the construction of eco-san toilets in the area. Project participants were given a card where they would get a tick mark after each visit to the toilet that earns them 10 paise. At month end, families in the village are reported to earn about Rs30 or RM2.30 every month. Thanks to the cash incentive, even children in that area no longer urinate in the open!

It’s a small step in the right direction to good toilet training and also a great start to a social revolution. This could also mean that the streets of South India should smell differently and signs like those outside my hotel will be a thing of the past!

This article was first published in The New Straits Times, Travel Times on 11 August 2008

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