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

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Swachh Bharat Mission and Vulnerable Populations

An in-depth accounting of toilet coverage is more vital than ever as the COVID-19 pandemic makes its way through India. While independent research is still emerging, available data is used to consider existing sanitation gaps in relation to the Swachh Bharat Mission’s objectives and claims, focusing on populations who are already at greater risk of compounded impacts from COVID-19. At a time when misinformation around current events and health issues abounds worldwide, good leadership must set an example by fostering ethics around data transparency.

Jammu and Kashmir’s Open Defecation Free Status

The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, now the union territory of J&K, attained 100% open defecation free status in September 2018, well before the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) deadline of 2 October 2019. However, the movement of women in flocks to fields as it gets dark portrays quite a different picture. Do the so-called individual household latrines exist only on paper, while being incomplete and non-functional in reality? Are these not being used due to cultural barriers and socialisation? What policy steps are needed to effect change in rural sanitation behaviour? To answer these questions and suggest a way forward, a micro-study was carried out in Bishnah block of Jammu district.

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.

Swachh Bharat: Hiding Caste Discrimination in Cleanliness

The Swachh Bharat Mission claims to have made significant progress in improving sanitation in India. But how credible are these claims?

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.

‘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.
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