Reducing open defecation in rural India is an important human development goal, but at what cost? Read Sangita’s piece in Hindustan Times
Sangita’s article in Hindustan Times raises some pertinent questions about the ways in which the Swachh Bharat Mission has been implemented. She draws attention to the fact that the Mission’s success in getting latrines constructed and the subsequent decline in the practice of open defecation has come about through the use of threats and coercion.
In a survey of four north Indian states, every second person had heard of fines, denial of government benefits, and being stopped from defecating in the open, being used as tools to compel latrine construction and use in their own village. Some people were denied their rations, pensions, and other government benefits. Moreover, the survey finds that the use of force had a visible caste angle to it: Dalits were twice as likely while Adivasis were thrice as likely to be at the receiving end of threats and coercion.
The implementation of the SBM has come at a cost to certain fundamental rights. She argues, “[T]he tactics employed by the SBM present important trade-offs that require public debate. Evaluating these trade-offs will at the very least require understanding how many people have been hurt because of the SBM, and how much it has accelerated the decline in open defecation. Reducing open defecation in rural India is an important human development goal, but at what cost?” Read more