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Sanitation is the greatest challenge facing Modi

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FTThe Financial Times has kindly printed my letter, commenting on their editorial about Premier Modi’s economic policies in India.

Sir, Your editorial “India’s Modi should act more decisively in 2015” (December 24) has too limited a view of the policies required to generate growth in India’s economy. With gross domestic product per capita of about $1,500, the country’s critical need is not just for the “big bang economic reforms” you advocate. Providing toilets for all is the first step.

At present, India loses 3 per cent of GDP, around $54bn, due to its poor sanitation, according to the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program. Yet the previous government spent 0.1 per cent of GDP on improving water and sanitation provision. As a result, 600m Indians lack access to toilets.

They have instead to resort to defecation in fields, or any other available places. Mothers have to take their babies with them, and allow them to play on the ground. As a result, bacterial contamination reaches across the social spectrum. Together with malnutrition, this results in 58 per cent of children being stunted by the age of two years.

Sanitation is therefore the great challenge that faces Premier Modi. It is no exaggeration to claim that India’s economic future depends on the fulfilment of his promise to provide sanitation for all by 2022.

Paul Hodges

Chairman, International eChem,

London N7, UK