Bollywood actress becomes India’s sanitation brand ambassador

Vidya Balan, who received the Best Actress National Film Award for her role in 2011 Bollywood hit ‘The Dirty Picture’, will now play a role to alter the real dirty picture in India. Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh has named the Bollywood actress as the brand ambassador in his campaign for improving sanitation [1].

According to India’s 2011 census, nearly half of population have no toilet at home, but more people own a mobile phone [2]. There are 2.1 million toilets in India which rely on manual scavengers to empty them [1].

The Minister hopes that Balan can help turn his campaign to end open defecation into a national obsession:

“it is going to be a very serious commitment on her part – she’s had a dirty picture in reel life, but this will be a clean picture in real life”. [1]

Vidya Balan has agreed to give support to Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan – the restructured version of the Total Sanitation Campaign – for two years [3].

The government is working on increasing the allocation for toilet construction from the current 3,500 Rupees (US$ 65) to 9,900 Rupees (US$ 183) per toilet, of which 5,400 Rupees (US$ 100) would come from the new Total Sanitation Campaign and the remaining 4,500 Rupees (US$ 83) from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Minister Jairam Ramesh is requesting 360 billion Rupees (US$ 6.6 billion) for rural sanitation in India’s 12th five-year plan, which starts in 2012-2013. [4,5]

The Indian government’s ambition is to achieve total rural sanitation coverage by 2017. According to data available up to September 2011, 115.3 million rural households have access to toilets, leaving 40.8 million households without sanitation facilities. A parliamentary standing committee on rural development is sceptical whether all rural areas will be open defecation free by 2017. [6]

Jairam Ramesh is counting on the support of another Bollywood celebrity Shahrukh Khan to join the campaign to end open defecation [7]. Last year the “King of Bollywood” announced he would become a sanitation advocate at the Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene in Mumbai [8]. Earlier cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and actor/director Aamir Khan had lent their celebrity power to promote school sanitation and handwashing. Minister Ramesh’s dream is to

[1] Rupashree Nanda, IBB-CNN, IBNLive, 05 May 2012
[2] Sanitation Updates, 16 Mar 2012
[3] PIB, 03 May 2012
[4] IANS, Economic Times, 25 Apr 2012
[5] Deccan Chronicle / India Sanitation Portal, 21 Apr 2012
[6] Elizabeth Roche,, 04 May 2012
[7] K. Balchand, The Hindu, 19 Apr 2012
[8] WSSCC, Sanitation Updates, 10 Oct 2011

7 responses to “Bollywood actress becomes India’s sanitation brand ambassador

  1. Nripendra Kumar Sarma, Guwahati, Assam (India )

    Dear Members,
    At this moment of time, my humble request to Vidya Balan, the Sanitation Brand Ambassador, is to lead the initiative to create the Social Commitment on use of safe sanitation practices. May I request YOU to spare at least 4-5 days every month to visit at least one cluster of villages in all the states of India, one by one as a real Ambassador to create that Social Commitment ( I am not sure how far it will be practicable )?
    Such an approach may definitely pave the way for the CHANGE, what she and we want to see ……. .
    Thanking you.
    With Best Regards
    Nripendra Kumar Sarma
    Guwahati, Assam, India.

  2. I very much agree with the proposition of Mr. Sharma and I hope that she try to understand the nitty-gritty of sanitation problems the deprived one are facing in India. In my opinion such ambassadors are highlighted by agencies to milk funding in the name of supporting poor rather focusing on real problems and action oriented work. I sincerely hope that this is not the case here…!

  3. Nripendra Kumar Sarma, Guwahati, Assam, India

    I was expecting comments from Vidya Balan, Sanitation Brand Anassador, India. Thanks & Regards.

  4. bedajyoti saikia

    The thinking of a Brand Ambassador from Film star is looking to be very nice,inspiration for the people. But, I don’t have seen her in this matter till now.(If I am not wrong). A little bit of change from core of heart would be able to bring change much more. Hope, she will be prepared herself to bring CHANGE herself in this sector as well as for the rural India.

  5. Nripendra Kumar Sarma, Guwahati, Assam, India

    Dear All,
    After accepting the role of “India’s Sanitation Brand Ambassador”, She has been engaged for Campaigning through electronic Media advocating the cause of Sanitation Status. But we have not seen her visiting any rural areas for branding WASH Programmes being implemented under ‘Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan’ in India.

    May we request YOU to come forward for necessary Branding of such WASH Activities, at least in some ‘Sanitation Mela’ / Exhibition or any kind of Awareness Raising Programmes? In our different Programmes, we take help of video clippings featuring you, but we hope, apart from that YOUR presence would have created a greater impact.

    So, I would like to reiterate and to request you to spare at least 4-5 days every month to visit at least one cluster of villages in all the states of India, one by one as a real Ambassador to create that Social Commitment ( I am not sure how far it will be practicable )?

    Hope to see you in such a noble efforts and I would love to see YOU as a Member of the Indian Delegates in the next SACOSAN V being organised in Kathmandu.

    Thanking All.
    Best Regards.
    Nripendra Kumar Sarma
    Guwahati, Assam, India

  6. Why a film actor or actress is chosen to be the brand ambassador? I think it is because he/she is very demanding in the social media and on TV. She/he helps many to fetch money out of her advertisement on TV, right from shooting to telecast. But the people yet don’t know that there is given toilets free of cost by the government (to financially poor ones). Whose duty is to make the illiterate people understand this funda? Government allocate Rs. 9,900 for each toilet..

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