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UN expert’s report picks holes in Swachh Bharat Mission

The Union government dismissed the UNSR preliminary report assertions on Swachh Bharat as “inaccuracies, sweeping generalisations and biases.”

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: November 11, 2017 7:10 am
Swachh Bharat Mission, United Nations, UN on Swachh Bharat, Leo Heller Leo Heller noted that India’s water and sanitation policies and its implementation “lack a clear and holistic human rights-based approach” (File Photo)

Responding to a United Nations Special Rapporteur (UNSR) preliminary report that is critical of Swachh Bharat Mission, the Union government has dismissed its assertions as “inaccuracies, sweeping generalisations and biases”. The government has also taken exception to the statement of Leo Heller, UNSR on human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, on the mission logo — Mahatma Gandhi’s glasses. Calling on the government to incorporate a human rights perspective in its mission, Heller had said that “now is a critical time to replace the lens of those glasses with the human rights lens”.

In his report, Heller has noted that India’s water and sanitation policies and its implementation “lack a clear and holistic human rights-based approach”. Releasing the report on Friday, he said, “Everywhere I went, I saw the logo of the Clean India Mission — Gandhi’s glasses. In its third year of implementation, now is a critical time to replace the lens of those glasses with the human rights lens.”

Heller termed his impression of the Indian government’s handling of water and sanitation schemes, based on his two-week-long site visits across the country and interviews with government officials and civil society organisations, as “largely mixed”.

Heller’s report is particularly critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet Swachh Bharat project launched in October 2014. “The Indian government’s emphasis on constructing toilets should not overshadow the focus of drinking water provision for all and it should not involuntarily contribute to violating fundamental rights of others, such as those specific caste-affected groups engaged in manual scavenging, or those who are marginalised such as ethnic minorities and people living in remote rural areas,” said Heller, who is expected to submit a final report to the UN Human Rights Council at its 39th session in September 2018.

The Union government immediately issued a release describing Heller’s report as one that makes “sweeping judgements which are either factually incorrect, based on incomplete information, or grossly misrepresent the drinking water and sanitation situation on the ground”.

The statement rejected his recommendations, terming them to be “baseless assertions”, and said the Swachh Bharat Mission and rural and urban drinking water programmes “fully conform to the Human Rights Criteria and Principles (as established by the UN system)”.

Heller’s report details how many of the “open defecation-free” certified areas were found to be not de facto open defecation-free, in many cases because the slums or schools didn’t have any functional toilets. The report also thrashes a 2016 and 2017 Quality Council of India report that said that 91 per cent toilets that had been built were being used.

The report has quoted a WaterAid study which suggests “only 33 per cent of toilets were deemed sustainably safe (eliminating risks of contamination in the long term); 35 per cent were safe, but would need major upgrades to remain safe in the long term; and 31 per cent were unsafe, creating immediate health hazards”.

He pointed out how the mission has had “an unintended consequence of the desire to obtain rewards, some aggressive and abusive practices” such as revoking of ration cards, electricity services being cut off in case of overdue energy bills, as also shaming and penalising of those defecating in the open. The report states that provision of water has received less attention in the mission. “This raises serious concerns: in India, unsafe water is responsible for 68 per cent more diarrhoea deaths than unsafe sanitation,” it states.

The government statement dismissed all of these “inaccuracies, sweeping generalisations and biases revealed in the UNSR’s rambling report”.

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  1. I
    Insaan
    Nov 12, 2017 at 7:37 pm
    In my mother tongue, Punjabi, there is a proverb my father once told me, ਆਬ ਆਬ ਕਰ ਮੋਇਓ ਬੱਚਾ ਫ਼ਾਰਸੀਆਂ ਘਰ ਗਾਲ਼ੇ, ਜੇ ਕਰ ਬੱਚਾ ਪਾਣੀ ਮੰਗਦਾ ਭਰ ਭਰ ਦਿੰਦੀ ਪ੍ਯਾਲੇ, meaning आब आब (Water in Persian) चिल्लाते बच्चा प्यासा मर गया, माँ कहती है यदि वह पानी मांगता तो मैं उसे भर भर प्याले देती! That is what happens when a person adopts a foreign language and forsakes his own mother tongue. Here I see people, including the Copy and Paste Brigade, posting irresponsible and malicious comments in English language not knowing or thinking what exactly they are saying. They are only hurting those who will benefit from progressive and innovative policies and programs of the nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The ultimate question I would have the skeptics to ask is: how much more Modi ji can hurt the already beleaguered country? We can see amazing things happening if we all work and make him succeed!
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      bala balaraman
      Nov 12, 2017 at 1:26 am
      The projects such as clean drinking water,toilets and cleaning ideas are to be lauded.Mr Narendran Modi cannot implement these projects with a corrupt Mp's,ministers and officials,In addition,low caste and minority community members are attacked by Hindu goons,First,Mr Modi must clean the House of PARLIAMENT,TO CLEAN THE COUNTRY.ALSO,LAW SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN TO HINDU GOONS. THE B OF HINDUISM PRACTISED BY BJP AND RSS IS A DISGRACE TO THE LOFTY PRINCIPLES OF HINDUISM.HINDUISM ACCEPTS ALL RELIGION,NOT MERELY TOLERATES.MR MODI MUST BECOME PRIME MINISTER OF ALL CITIZANS,NOT MERELY FOR HINDUS AND GUJARATIS. TODAY, BECAUSE OF BJP AND RSS,HINDUISM IS CONSIDERED AS A NON TOLERANT AND FANATICAL RELIGION.HINDUISM IS ACCEPTED BY ALL RELIGIONS.THIS is BECAUSE OF GREAT SAINTS like Swami Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharishi WHO ADVOCATED A UNIVERSAL HINDUISM. I as a hindu plead that the great Bahrathiya values be restored,and a universal Hinduism brought back.
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        Insaan
        Nov 13, 2017 at 9:21 pm
        We do need BJP and the RSS to continue to remind us that we Hindus have a responsibility to uphold the virtues inherent to Hindutva that can alone bring dignity and pride in all Indians. In India, we have traditions in religions that converge into practice of Hindutva or character and conduct of righteousness if only explained for reason of majority Hindu. With Hindus out of Pakistan, you have sectarian disturbances resulting in loss of innocent lives in that country.
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        rohan
        Nov 11, 2017 at 6:50 pm
        Toilets without Water !
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          blackpower
          Nov 11, 2017 at 10:20 am
          this FEKU is an event manager at best. an event is a short term timebound program - such as a film, a concert, with adefinite start and definite end. way back, advani remarked that modi is a very good event manager. all show and style, smoke and mirrors, but no susbtance. feku is very good at rolling from one event into another as a strategy of continual distraction from the deepseated problems. his abject inxeperience and illiteracy of proferring long term solutions was manifest in the horrors of demonetisation and GST (rolling back merrily ostensibly for electoral gains). waste management is a tricky affair - merely b ishing a broom and sweeping a few square metres - is an event at best. FEKU has shown remarkable traits as a snakeoil sman. as lincoln said - yYou can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
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          1. I
            Insaan
            Nov 11, 2017 at 7:54 pm
            तुम बगुला-भक्त हो| जाओ चुल्लू-भर पानी में दूब मरो क्योंकि अवसरवादी अरविन्द केजरीवाल की आड़ में राष्ट्र-विरोधी तत्व युगपुरुष मोदी जी द्वारा विकास उन्मुख कार्यों में बाधा बने देश को फिर से न र क में ले जाना चाहते हैं| जयचंद हो या बगुला-भक्त, कॉपी और पेस्ट कर्मचारी| तुम पर शर्म आती है| कभी सोचा है कि तुम जैसे लोगों की स्वेच्छापूर्ण मिलीभगत के कारण मुट्ठी भर फिरंगियों ने अधिकांश भारतीय उप महाद्वीप को अधिकृत कर लिया था?
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              blackpower
              Nov 11, 2017 at 11:22 pm
              is this the lnaguage from 5000 bC - sanskrit?
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              1. I
                Insaan
                Nov 12, 2017 at 7:29 pm
                Blackpower, In my mother tongue, Punjabi, there is a proverb my father once told me, ਆਬ ਆਬ ਕਰ ਮੋਇਓ ਬੱਚਾ ਫ਼ਾਰਸੀਆਂ ਘਰ ਗਾਲ਼ੇ, ਜੇ ਕਰ ਬੱਚਾ ਪਾਣੀ ਮੰਗਦਾ ਭਰ ਭਰ ਦਿੰਦੀ ਪ੍ਯਾਲੇ, meaning आब आब (Water in Persian) चिल्लाते बच्चा प्यासा मर गया, माँ कहती है यदि वह पानी मांगता तो मैं उसे भर भर प्याले देती! That is what happens when a person adopts a foreign language and forsakes his own mother tongue. Here I see people, including the Copy and Paste Brigade, posting irresponsible and malicious comments in English language not knowing or thinking what exactly they are saying. They are only hurting those who will benefit from progressive and innovative policies and programs of the nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The ultimate question I would have the skeptics to ask is: how much more Modi ji can hurt the already beleaguered country? We can see amazing things happening if we all work and make him succeed!
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            2. Eknath Meshram
              Nov 11, 2017 at 10:09 am
              CLEAN INDIA IS THE BEST CONCEPT PROPAGATED BY OUR PRIME MINISTER MR. NARENDRA MODI BUT THE GROUND REALITIES MATCH WITH UN EXPERT'S REPORT. IN PLACE OF TAKING THE REPORT OTHERWISE, WE MUST TRY TO IMPROVE UPON THE REALITIES. TAKING THE BROOM IN HAND AND SWEEPING A FEW FEET HERE AND THERE BY MINISTERS AND PRIME MINISTER FOR ONE DAY IN FRONT OF CAMERA AND MEDIA CANNOT MAKE CLEAN INDIA. SEWAGE DISPOSAL AND GARBAGE DISPOSAL AND MAINTENANCE OF CLEANLINESS MUST BE SORTED OUT SERIOUSLY BY THE GOVERNMENTS IN PLACE OF MERE FALSE PROPAGANDA. CLEANLINESS IS NOT THE PROBLEM OF ONE AND ONE TIME TO EXHIBIT ON TV IN FRONT OF MEDIA FOR CHEAP POPULARITY. IT MUST BE TAKEN UP SERIOUSLY BY PROVIDING FUNCTIONAL TOILETS AND FINDING OUT SOLUTIONS OF SEWAGE AND GARBAGE DISPOSALS. THERE IS NO HARM IN ACCEPTING REALITIES AND IMPROVING UPON THEM.
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                blackpower
                Nov 11, 2017 at 10:12 am
                so when is the brahmin going down the manhole to clean your ? when are you going down the manhole to clean lowcaste ? when is the brahmin clearing up corpses and carcasses and fecal matter?
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                  Insaan
                  Nov 12, 2017 at 7:36 pm
                  You should be willing to do it if you are paid well. I see you already in the manhole of anti-India political activism for a small handout!
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