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An Insightful Article on SBM by Manini Chatterjee in The Telegraph

Blog Post1 min read

We wanted to share this interesting article by Manini Chatterjee that came out in The Telegraph today.  Manini has talked about how the SBM fails to address the root causes of poor sanitation in India. SBM, as a sanitation campaign, has remained silent on the issue of manual scavenging, and has so far failed to address the links between caste and waste disposal.

She quotes Bezwada Wilson  (National convener of Safai Karamchari Andolan) to show how the campaign has failed to solve the bigger challenges that the sanitation problem in India faces at present- "there is an inexorable link between occupation and caste; the occupation of manual scavenging is linked with caste. We have to break the link between caste and occupation before we set out to achieve Swachh Bharat."  She also questions the SBM's focus on building toilets without having to say anything about improving the plight of people who do the cleaning jobs.

r.i.c.e. research has found that beliefs, values, and norms about purity and pollution contribute to the ubiquity and social acceptance of open defecation in India. In India, dealing with pit emptying has been linked to a job that lower caste people do. While the SBM is building latrines all over the country, getting people to use them will be difficult because few people are willing to empty their latrine pits themselves.

Manini concludes her article by saying that the SBM must give us pause to see the filth within.  That is, if the SBM is to succeed, people need to recognize the role of caste prejudice in shaping sanitation outcomes.


r.i.c.e. is a non-profit research organization focused on health and well-being in India. Our core focus is on children in rural north India. Our research studies health care at the start of life, sanitation, air pollution, maternal health, social inequality, and other dimensions of population-level social wellbeing.

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