What Swachh Bharat Abhiyan ignores

In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to clean the “filthiness all around us”, which, according to him, is an obstacle for promoting the tourism that offers jobs to the poorest of the poor. Mr. Modi announced his government’s resolve to accomplish the vision of a clean India by 2019, on the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) was an unprecedented nationwide initiative aimed to inspire the public to voluntarily clean public spaces as a service to the nation. The campaign initially highlighted images of celebrities “voluntarily” sweeping the streets, in protective gear. Circulated by a pliable commercial media, these images trended on social media. Concurrently, municipalities began to employ more contractual labourers — mostly scavengers forced into the profession by their caste — to remove waste. Similarities between the secular SBA and the casteist form of manual scavenging are evident, but they have gone unnoticed. The secular sounding Swachh Bharat offers nothing but concealment of caste. The SBA enables a disjunction between the cleaning and disposing of waste, where the cleaning is a voluntary ‘service’ which caste Hindus are called upon to undertake, while collecting and disposing waste is a ‘duty’ relegated to municipal workers from particular castes. Any tangible achievement of a clean India is possible only if the stigma attached to sanitary labour, place and waste are critically addressed by caste-neutralising these professions and through adoption of technologies. Until then we are unlikely to succeed in any mission to keep our cities clean. Even if we succeed in putting up a façade of cleanliness, we need to remember that a clean village exists because an ‘unclean’ caste has absorbed all the ‘filth’ of the village.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/what-swachh-bharat-abhiyan-ignores/article24740721.ece

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