A Policy to Eliminate Toilet-Less People
LUCKNOW: When Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiated his Clean India campaign nobody would have thought that it would become so deadly one day.
The symbol being used for this campaign is Mahatma Gandhi's spectacles, a man who stood for non-violence resolutely.
Not many expected that after PM Modi came to power,new reasons would be discovered to harass sections of Indians, and that these could prove fatal. That people would be beaten up on the suspicion of having consumed beef and could be killed for this; that if a Muslim boy chose to marry a Hindu girl, ‘love jihad’ would be used against them and they would have to scurry for cover; if the police saw a boy and girl together they could use ‘suspicion’ of eve teasing to harass and initimidate them in the guise of anti-Romeo squads; Kashmiri students studying in other states of India could be beaten up at the slightest provocation after being labeled anti-national.
And that more serious intractable problems like famers' suicides, malnourishment of children, human trafficking of girls and women from Nepal and Bangladesh through India, people including children begging on major street crossings of national and state capitals, daily corruption at government offices, schools and hospitals will not be touched. Simply because these issues do not have the potential for communal mobilization under the ‘politics of nationalism.’
The manner in which Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) activist Zafar Khan was lynched to death in Pratapgarh, Rajasthan makes us wonder the kind of society we want to create?
On the morning of June, 17 2017 employees of Nagar Parishad of Pratapgarh were taking photographs of women belonging to the Mehtab Khan slum defecating in the open with the objective of shaming them as part of some government policy. Zafar Khan who was also a resident of this slum protested. The accompanying Commissioner Ashok Jain instigated his Dalit sanitation employees to beat Zafar Khan to death. The resurgent India has found a new reason to lynch people.
Do the women who defecate in open enjoy doing so? When they don't have toilets at home where are they supposed to go to relieve themselves.? If people don't have toilets who is supposed to build it for them? If anybody was to be punished for open defecation of women in Mehtab Shah slum it should have been the government officials whose responsibility it was to create the toilets. If the land on which the slum was built was government land, and possibly personal toilets, could not have been built on it then the government should have got a Sulabh toilet built there.
If we compare India's situation with her neighbours it becomes clear that governments in India have not given priority for the construction to toilets. In India mere 34% population had access to improved sanitation in 2010 compared to 92% in Sri Lanka, 64% in China, 56% in Bangladesh, 48% in Pakistan and 44% in Bhutan.
In India the caste system further prevents the Dalits from using available toilets. For example, a number of Dalit domestic workers who do different chores like cleaning, cooking or baby sitting in mostly upper caste middle class or upper middle class households do not have permission to use the toilets inside these homes. They have to find some bush, tree or wall outside to relieve themselves.
It is the government officials who are responsible for the death of Zafar Khan. The Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindhia, who termed it as an unfortunate incident, should have resigned taking moral responsibility.
The local Commissioner Ashok Jain follows a religion which lays special emphasis on non-violence. Jains are known to take care so that no micro-organism gets killed because of them. The Jain monks tie a piece of cloth around their mouth and nose for this reason. Jains don't eat onion and garlic to keep their passions under check. Yet Ashok Jain didn't seem to have any qualms as Zafar Khan was murdered.
PM Narendra Modi's cleanliness drive has completed three years. Citizens were charged a new cess. A large amount was spent. But the ground reality doesn't seem to have changed. The cows are eating as much plastic on roads as they were doing before and the amount of untreated sewage that flows into the river Ganga in Varanasi remains the same as before.
The Clean India campaign is a failure. People got photographed with brooms in which no member of the Valmiki community was seen, and they actually do the cleaning job daily and enter our sewers. The credit for whatever cleanliness we see around us goes to the Valmiki community.
Probably more money was spent in publicizing rather than actual cleaning the Clean India campaign.
The policy of Narendra Modi has created a new category of discrimination in India. It mostly overlaps the rich-poor or caste-outcaste divide - those with toilets and the toilet-less. By eliminating the toilet-less people India can claim to have increased the percentage of population with access to sanitation.
(Sandeep Pandey, is a well known Indian social activist. who is currently a visiting faculty at IIT Gandhinagar. He is a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership)