UN expert exposes faults of ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission

A top United Nations expert on sanitisation sharply criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission on Friday, stating that it  “lacked a holistic human rights approach.” The criticism did not go well with the central government, which issued a swift reproval.

The government called UN Special Rapporteur on human rights to safe drinking water and sanitisation Leo Heller’s views “rambling” and said the report contained “inaccuracies, sweeping generalisations and biases.”

“In the last two weeks I have visited rural and urban areas, slums and settlement camps where the undocumented population is residing… and I have found that these initiatives lack a more human rights approach,” Heller said in the report.

A press release by the office of the High Commissioner, United Nations Human Rights, on the issue, which had a reference to Mahatma Gandhi,  also drew strong criticism from the government.

“Everywhere I went, I saw the logo of the Clean India Mission — (Mahatma) 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 was quoted as saying in the release.

The government, took a strong note of remarks made on the logo of the Clean India Mission, and condemned it stating that it showed  “serious insensitivity towards the Father of the Nation”.

“Instead of taking the human rights approach to sanitation in a holistic way, a piecemeal approach is there,” Heller told the press conference, and urged the government at all levels to impart a human rights perspective to its national programmes on safe drinking water and sanitation.

Heller was on a fortnight-long visit to India, and during this time he met several government officials and visited New Delhi, Kolkata, Imphal, Lucknow and Mumbai where he also visited a few slums.

Heller was directed by the UN Humans Rights Council (UNHRC) to monitor, report and advice on the realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation worldwide.

The UN expert however also recognized the achievements under the Clean India Mission.



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