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

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Numbing Machines

What forms does manual scavenging take after its legal abolition? Analysing the recent deaths in Bengaluru’s sewage treatment plants and underground drainage systems, the understandings of manual scavenging as an “archaic” practice and opposed to the “rule of law” are rejected. The contractualisation of sewer maintenance instrumentalises “untouchable” bodies, making the calibration of caste power coincidental with the calibration of urban sewerage. Urban manual scavenging is shown to be an emergent application of caste power that resolves ecological impasses in contemporary sewerage. The objectification of caste power in urban infrastructures nevertheless opens up new locations for politicising normative caste embodiment.

The Real Status of Rural Sanitation

A response to the article “Open Defecation in Rural India, 2015–16: Levels and Trends in NFHS–4” (EPW, 3 March 2018) points out that the NFHS–4 data on open defecation in rural India is neither the “best” nor is it “new.” Rural India is well on its way to becoming open defecation free before the proposed deadline of 2 October 2019.

Status of Denotified Tribes

A study on the socio-economic and educational status of denotified tribes reveals that members of these tribes are plagued by chronic poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, health complications, and substandard living conditions, apart from the label of ex-criminals. They face an identity crisis in the absence of statutory documents and therefore, need special policies for their welfare and upliftment.

Inclusive State, Excluded People

India Exclusion Report 2015 by Centre for Equity Studies; New Delhi: Yoda Press, 2015; pp 283, ₹500.

On Incidence of Diarrhoea among Children in India

Drinking water, sanitation and hygiene behaviour, referred to as the WASH variables by the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund, are acknowledged as the three main determinants of diarrhoeal diseases. But the impact of their complementarities on disease incidence remains understudied. This study uses state and household level data to examine the determinants of child diarrhoeal incidence. It introduces indicators of WASH quality and combined presence, both at the household and state levels. It combines them in a novel analysis to understand their roles. In the Indian states, with the worst WASH infrastructure, these variables are strategic substitutes, but as WASH infrastructure improves, they become strategic complements. Thus, resource allocation to lower diarrhoea incidence must take into account the complementary rather than individual presence of these focal variables. Further, the quality of WASH also matters. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, targeting universal sanitation coverage, is unlikely to be effective unless it breaks the Gordian knot of complementarities and WASH quality holding up the burden of childhood diarrhoea.

Innovating Waste Management

Six towns in Maharashtra—Lonavla, Shirur, Deolali Pravara, Umred, Vengurla and Sangola, made remarkable achievements over the last one year in waste disposal and management. A combination of proactive and punitive measures ensured that waste management is seen as part of a larger set of social problems and community initiatives.

Towards Equality in Healthcare

The Rapid Survey on Children shows a new trend of an increased access to healthcare by marginalised communities like Dalits, Adivasis and Other Backward Classes which have made substantial gains in the last decade. However much needs to be achieved in the realm of nutrition and sanitation where these communities remain acutely deprived.

Drinking Water in Kanyakumari

The example of Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu shows that the provision of safe drinking water still remains an unachieved goal, especially in rural areas, with the most severe adverse effects on the health and development of the rural poor. However, India utilises only half of the available surface and groundwater. Augmentation of availability and control of water pollution are necessary to meet the drinking water needs of rural areas.

Declining Social Consumption in India

The declining trend in the use and provision of basic amenities needs immediate attention at the policy level. The main reason for this decline is the low efficiency in managing resources like drinking water, where distribution and transmission losses are high. Policy-making should also focus on demand-side aspects like increasing water use efficiency, recycling and promotion of watersaving technologies.
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