‘Swachchh Bharat flawed’

The Asian Age.

India, All India

UN expert says it lacks human rights approach.

The UN expert, who visited India at the invitation of the government will submit a full report on his findings with recommendations at the 39th session of the Human Rights Council in September 2018. (Photo: PTI/Representational)

New Delhi: The Centre on Friday crossed swords with a top UN expert after the latter’s scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pet Swachchh Bharat Mission (SBM) which he described as lacking in “a holistic human rights approach”.

The government took strong exception to the United Nation’s special rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation Leo Heller’s reference to Mahatma Gandhi’s spectacles in the SBM’s logo, and his “rambling” report containing “inaccuracies, sweeping generalisations and biases”.

Tearing into Mr Modi’s favourite initiative, Mr Heller said, “in the last two weeks I have visited rural and urban areas, slums and settlement camps where undocumented population is residing... And I have found that these initiatives lack a more human rights approach.”

A press release by the office of the high commissioner, United Nations Human Rights, on the issue, which had a reference to Mahatma Gandhi, drew strong criticism from the government. The release was distributed at the press conference.

“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,” Mr Heller was quoted as saying in the release. Taking a strong note of his remarks on the logo of the Clean India Mission, the government issued a statement deploring that it showed “serious insensitivity towards the Father of the Nation”.

The statement said the world knows that the Mahatma was the foremost proponent of human rights.

“The world knows that the Mahatma was the foremost proponent of human rights, including for sanitation, his unique and special focus. Gandhiji's glasses, the unique logo of the Swachchh Bharat Mission, epitomise core human rights principles,” the government's statement said. While, the UNSR appears to compliment India's efforts in recent years in addressing gaps in water and sanitation services through an “unprecedented commitment”, he goes on to make sweeping judgements which are either factually incorrect, based on incomplete information, or grossly misrepresent the drinking water and sanitation situation on the ground, it further added.

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