The many ways the govt has taken Swachh Bharat to ridiculous proportions
The third anniversary of the NDA government's Swachh Bharat campaign is an opportune moment to take stock of the programme and its achievements.
While the government will be eager to throw staggering numbers to claim that it has been a roaring success, there is another question that warrants attention, much beyond the number of toilets built and the number of them in use.
Ever since the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan was rechristened Swachh Bharat Mission in September 2014, officials of the union government and various state governments have adopted a zealot's approach to meet the programmes objective. In the race to make India free of open defecation by 2019, in time for the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, government officials have made a mockery of the campaign.
In the last three years, a range of irresponsibly devised incentives and punishment have surfaced that only serve to show that officials have taken the drive to ridiculous proportions.
Many incentives announced have been insensitive and punishments draconian. Somewhere, over enthusiastic volunteers chase out those trying to relieve themselves, while somewhere else, photographs of violators are posted on public platforms.
There are monetary fines in some cases, while offenders may even be jailed in others. Supply of subsidised ration and kerosene has also been cut off for a few.
Here is a list of the most outrageous measures taken by officials across the country:
Shaming - Gwalior district administration recently announced a reward of Rs 100 per picture to those who will click and share pictures of those defecating in the open.
Last year, the education department in Rajasthan's Jhalawar district asked government teachers to go out on inspection visits at 5 am and check open defecation in their respective school areas. They department also asked the teachers by to click photos of those found relieving themselves in open.
Fines – In Madhya Pradesh, local government officials in Raisen district slapped a fine of nearly Rs 4 lakh on 13 families for defecating in the open.
Darkness – Earlier this month, Uttar Pradesh government was in the headlines for cutting power supply to the homes of those who were yet to construct toilets.
"Sell your wife” - The district magistrate of Aurangabad in Bihar reportedly told locals in a village that men should build toilets at all costs, even if that meant selling their wives to raise money.
Death – Earlier this year, a man was killed in Rajasthan's Pratapgarh town after a group of government officials allegedly beat him up badly. The man reportedly tried to stop the officials from taking pictures of women defecating in public.
Given that these are only those incidents that were reported and that much of what happens in the hinterland largely remains unreported, it is quite likely that this is just the tip of an iceberg. It is time the Union government, which is the fountainhead of the overenthusiasm surrounding Swachh Bharat, takes a strong stand against these bizarre ways of implementing the programme.