ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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‘When You Start Doing This Work, It Is Hard to Eat Dal’

In 2013, manual scavenging, or the cleaning of “dry” latrines with unprotected hands, was abolished in India. Yet, millions of dry latrines are still manually serviced by Dalit labour. The Prime Minister’s Swachh Bharat Mission has put little effort into the health and dignity of sanitation workers relative to its efforts on subsidising and encouraging latrine-building. A few days spent with the Valmiki community in Lucknow are recounted.

‘It Has to Be Done Only at Night’

India’s National Urban Sanitation Policy and its flagship programme, the Swachh Bharat Mission, strongly recommend mechanical technologies for safe faecal sludge management. But, how do septic tank cleaners live and work, and why are their practices not “safe”? An evening spent in observation of their work and in conversation with cleaners and truck drivers in Bengaluru is recounted.

'Get the Price Right'

Economists are right when they point out that irrigation water prices are absurdly low compared with their scarcity value, and that at such low prices there is no incentive to conserve. However, it does not follow that raising water prices is the natural next step for developing countries such as India. There are two broad reasons for this conclusion: first, in the near to medium term, canal water prices probably cannot be raised to the point where they significantly affect water demand. The negative impact on farm revenues would be too drastic and the policy would not find broad public support. Second, low water prices are often not the main reason behind the farmers' water-inefficient crop choices. Moreover, farm-level inefficiencies appear not to be the most significant ones on existing canals, nor are water prices the most significant prices driving irrigation demand. A better first step would be to enforce simple allocation rules - such as per-hectare rations - that would make the scarcity value of water immediately obvious. The analysis in this article is based on a study of one canal system in Maharashtra.
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