New Delhi: Linking the open defecation problem with malnutrition, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Friday said the Indian political class has been neglecting sanitation and made a strong pitch for bringing it on the national agenda.
"As a country, we have stressed nutrition specific interventions; we have neglected nutrition sensitive interventions. In my view, the single most significant and crucial nutrition intervention that we have neglected is sanitation," he said here referring to studies which established that tackling tackling the issue of open defecation key to coping with malnutrition.
Addressing the launch of `Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition`, he criticised the Indian mindset on the issue, saying, the people and political class still do not appreciate fully the significance of sanitation from the public health point of view.
"I don`t see the same degree of political enthusiasm on sanitation. I think we neglect this at peril... When we talk about sanitation, we can only giggle. But I think it is more than giggles...It has profound implication on malnutrition," Ramesh, who attracted several controversies with his comments during his stint as the in-charge of Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry, said.
He lost the sanitation portfolio during a Cabinet reshuffle last October.
"I think the most important take that I have from the papers on the nutrition sensitive portfolio is to give a central place to sanitation and to look at incentive structures and delivery systems for ensuring that in the next 10 years we become an open defecation society," he said.
Speaking about nutrition situation, Ramesh said the country`s rapid economic growth was not reflected in nutrition indicators.
Noting that "nutrition puzzle" is the "central developmental puzzle" in India today, the minister said, "You have rapid economic growth on one hand, you have better health indicators, better education indicators, better indicators of water supply, but you do not see that reflected in nutrition indicators."