Of Dirt and Cleanliness – Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Nityanand Jayaraman

KAFILA - 10 years of a common journey

108544214-defecation_6The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) is powerful in its simplicity, and problematic for the same reason. The absence of complexity in the presentation of the campaign, and the inherent contradictions between Modi’s consumerist growth agenda and SwachhBharat’s objectives fuels my skepticism and raises many questions: Which parts of India will be cleaned, which not and why not? What will we do with the wastes we remove? Where will we put it?

If cleanliness is to be the result, dirt would have to be the starting point. In a 1966 classic called “Purity and Danger,” anthropologist Mary Douglas points out that “If we can abstract pathogenicity and hygiene from our notion of dirt, we are left with the old definition of dirt as matter out of place. . .It implies two conditions: a set of ordered relations and a contravention of that order.”

Cleanliness is a loaded word particularly…

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