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Study finds Indian households with female children reduce practice of open defecation

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A toilet block in a village in Bhopal District, Madhya Pradesh | Photo: Anindito Mukherjee | Bloomberg
A toilet block in a village in Bhopal District, Madhya Pradesh | Photo: Anindito Mukherjee | Bloomberg


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New Delhi: A study has found that households with female children don’t practice open defecation as much as others, owing to a potentially high cost of harassment.

These findings have come to light in an article titled Gender composition of children and sanitation behaviour by Deepak Saraswat, a PhD student at the University of Connecticut, published on the Ideas for India portal on 22 April 2020. He used data from the 2015-16 Demographic and Health Survey and found that the presence of a female child in Indian households leads in a reduction in open defecation amounting to 7 per cent in rural areas and 14 per cent in urban areas.

Saraswat noted that rural and urban regions differed in their costs and incentives to reduce open defecation. In contrast to urban areas, rural areas have large spaces, which provides greater privacy while defecating in the open, whereas in urban areas, defecating in the open came with higher social costs like spreading “impurity” in the neighbourhood.


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‘Income constraint in rural areas for investing in a toilet’

Saraswat wrote, “My calculation using DHS (Demographic and Health Survey) shows that while OD (open defecation) demonstrates a sharp reduction in urban areas as income goes up, the reduction in rural areas is much less with income going up.” Moreover, he says, it may be expected that in urban areas, the households likely to be “compliers” are the ones that witness higher rates of open defecation. However, in rural areas, there is an income constraint for investing in a toilet, so the compliers are likely to be from richer households. This has been empirically confirmed in the study.

A reduction in open defecation owing to a firstborn child being a girl is far greater in poor urban households than richer ones. Results have also suggested that this reduction “shows up” when the girl child reaches the age of puberty. Moreover, in rural areas, this reduction is more pronounced when the girls are close to marriageable age. He adds, “the reduction in OD from main results are largely driven by areas where the crime against women is the highest in the country.”

Saraswat argues that “this paper highlights that in certain cases, there are private costs from open defecation and hence, private investment is possible.”

“Association between the gender of the firstborn child and sanitation practices of a household in India also provides a new first-stage result, which has the potential to generate higher take-ups with targeted incentives to families with presence of girl child,” he added.

According to Saraswat’s research, India accounts for 60 per cent of the total open defecation in the world.


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


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‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


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