The Hindu notions of purity and pollution, inextricably linked with the caste system and the practice of untouchability, underlie the unsanitary practices in Indian society. These beliefs perpetuate the oppression of the “polluted castes,” who are forced to undertake manual scavenging, unclog manholes and clean other people’s filth. The availability of cheap Dalit labour to do these dehumanising jobs can be cited as one of the reasons why development of toilet facilities and a modern garbage and sewage management system have been neglected so far. As long as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan attempts to delink the relationship between caste and sanitation, its lofty goal of cleaning India will remain unachievable.
(Read the full text here http://www.epw.in/system/files/pdf/2015_50/44/Silencing_Caste_Sanitising_Oppression.pdf)
Guest Post by ARDHENDU SEN
The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has many components but the main thrust is on the building of new toilets, both public and private. Why is it that we have so few toilets so many decades after independence? Many would blame the policy paralysis of the UPA II government and there is no denying the truth in that charge. Many others would go back decades and ask if any government before the present one ever paid adequate attention to such important social problems. Looking back into our hoary past, we come across an important ancient cause of our present misfortune.
It is now a well-known fact that India had aircrafts and spacecrafts long before other nations could even conceive of flying. The western educated, liberal (meaning Nehruvian) sceptic has only to visit the official website of the Indian Science Congress to convince herself of this. We know about one of these crafts in some detail because the 1903 edition of an old paper by one Rishi Bhardwaj has survived. The paper describes a fairly large craft, sixty feet by sixty feet that could not only fly in air but was suitable for interplanetary travel. This huge flying machine like that must have carried hundreds of people.
It is logical to assume that these crafts were fitted with chemical toilets. An aeroplane may do without one for a while but a spacecraft cannot because there is no force of gravity to help us get rid of the stuff. Ask Sunita Williams and she would be happy to explain it to you. Continue reading A Hindu View of Sanitation: Ardhendu Sen
The Hindu Social Order is based upon a division of labour which reserves for the Hindus clean and respectable jobs and assigns to the untouchables dirty and mean jobs and thereby clothes the Hindus with dignity and heaps ignominy upon the untouchables.
(The Revolt of the Untouchables, Excerpted from Essays on Untouchables and Untouchability : Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, Vol 5 (Mumbai : Govt of Maharashtra, 1989, 256-58)
The inauguration of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, (Clean India Campaign) with much fanfare, with ministers, bureaucrats and others holding Jhadoos evoked an interesting reaction from a ragpicker Sanjay who lives in Mehrauli with his parents. “These are the same people from whose houses we pick up garbage every day. This is part of our life. We don’t really understand why they are making it such a big deal,” Continue reading Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Too Many Erasures