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Politics Of Sanitation:Political Failure And People’s Movement

By Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastav

07 October, 2013

In India currently election fever is gaining. A major issue which has come into fore is related to sanitation. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has advocated the complete sanitation of the country to make it a developed country. The same thought has been voiced by Narendra Modi. He has emphasized the construction of toilets first than temple. He too has modern thinking about sanitation status of India and is devising a mechanism to make it a clean country.

There is thus a consensus in both leading parties that country is not very clean and need is to go for sanitation at the larger scale, moreover first time in the election year such nonpolitical and social issue are gaining the currency, credit to this stage must go to Jairam as he since last few years has emphasized it.Sad thought is that issue has been pushed into petty politics.

A critical analysis shows the larger part of the country is not very clean. The dirt is more widely spread in the northern states. Even many cities have no proper system of the waste disposal, the landfills and trench like systems appear to be insufficient. The cleaning work force is limited with many of the local bodies. Government has no national or city centric policy to clean the cities.

A critical study shows that sanitation has its basis in the fundamental rights of the Indian constitution.Art.19 (1) (d) provides freedom of movement. This movement can only be possible if the area is clean, none can go to live in a city where the uncleanliness may cause the diseases as during the plague outbreak in the Surat in 1994,Art 19 (1) (e) gives freedom to reside and settle in any part of the country, is it possible and correct for any individual or family to live at any place where dirt abounds, bad and foul air float in the air, hence right to settlement automatically grants the citizen to have the clean ambience, Art. 19 (1) (g) grants right to practice any profession, occupation, trade or commerce , these practices are possible only in the clean environment. Article 21 provides the right to life and liberty, but life can not be protected in the dirty atmosphere, many diseases may be caused.

In the similar way the right to profess, practice and propagate the religion has been provided in the article 25 (1), it is general understanding that no religious activities can be carried in the dirty places.

Government of India has passed many legislations as Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 amended in 1987, Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 ,etc, but these focus the pollution control , like Britain no comprehensive legislation have been passed where Public Health Act 1848, Sanitation Act 1866, second Public Health Act 1872, Third Public Health Act 1875 brought a new culture of sanitation and in last three centuries a dirty country was changed in to a clean and attractive one.

In Norway, the No. 1 in HDI the comprehensive legislation as the Water Resources Act (replaced the Watercourses Act in 2001), the Pollution Control Act 1981 and the Municipal Health Services Act 1982 and Planning and Building Act 1985 have created a wide influence. The Pollution Control Act has put a ban on the littering, a common culture in India where even the car riders throw away the wrappers of used snacks pack on the road, an act they will never indulge to do inside their drawing rooms. India needs legislations on the pattern of England and Norway etc. JNNURM like programmes address the sanitation in the cities but it is not their exclusive mission. The sanitation is largely managed by the municipal bodies, usually incapable to manage it and National Urban sanitation policy has yielded nothing substantial.

Sanitation is wide concept which may include not only the cleanliness but also the pollution free ambience, maintenance of the park like open spaces, growing of the plants roadside and within the house. When government falters the role of citizens become much crucial. Government is main authority to carry on it but role of citizens is also crucial. In this respect the collective efforts concept of Elinor Ostrom need to be followed as practiced by a lady from Kanpur, Mrs. Kusum Lata, daughter of Manni Lal, a freedom fighter from Orai, famous for slapping the police officer in 1942 Quit India movement. Mrs. Kusum Lata awakened local youth and organized Park Bachao Samiti to save a big park ‘Kidwai Park’ from the unnecessary construction as Musical Fountain by the municipal bodies which was likely to make it a banquet place. Her consistent efforts with the local people helped to stop the construction,sadly half part of the park is still closed.

It has taken away the human rights of the people. In the name of revenue generation the municipal authorities have brought polluted conditions as the dengue larvas abound in the collected water. With her efforts the local MP Sri Prakash Jai Sawal, local MLA Ajai Kapur, ex mayor Ravindra Patni helped to stop the construction but the local people efforts to open park failed though persistent petitions were made.

A sad story as the present mayor like the previous one come from BJP, whose leader Narendra Modi wants to prefer the toilets above the temples. This is a clear case of people’s awakening and administrative lethargy.

The sad point is that Kanpur is infamous for its dirt where the pigs live, walk, breed in the residential area, no authority takes pain to eliminate this unhygienic problem, moreover bulls, stray dogs, mobile towers abound in the city. The increase in cancer cases, dog biting is only due to dirty, bad sanitary management of the city, a representative story of sanitary conditions of many places.

Hence need is that instead of getting involved in the petty politics, a consensus be evolved as how to make the India clean like Finland and to transform it environment friendly country like New Zealand.

Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava has twenty years University level teaching experience, presently Assistant Professor in CSJM Kanpur University[affiliated college],Vice Chairman CSSP, Kanpur a think tank and educational hub for deprived section of society, has presented papers in Chile, Australia, Finland, South Korea, Sweden etc., regular contributor to Mainstream Weekly, has been published in Dainik Jagran, AJ newspaper. Recent paper ‘Message from a Lady of Exceptional Courage’ on Sushmita Banerjee,(with feminist view) Mainstream Weekly,21st September available at www.mainstreamweekly.net, Email: vpy1000@yahoo.co.in


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