In the wake of the killing of two Dalit children in Madhya Pradesh for defecating in the open, the Centre on Friday told states that any type of coercive action related to sanitation behaviour is "unacceptable under any circumstance" and the guilty should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of law.
The two children were killed in Shivpuri district on Wednesday.
In an advisory to the states, the Jal Shakti Ministry said that "any type of coercive action taken by anybody, including government or elected officials or private individuals with respect to sanitation behaviour of any kind is unacceptable under any circumstance."
It said that in such cases, the authorities concerned "should prosecute the guilty to the fullest extent of the applicable law".
Referring to the killings, the advisory said it was brought to the notice of the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation that certain forms of "inappropriate actions and extreme coercive actions" are still being practised.
"In this context, the tragic case of death of two children in Madhya Pradesh has been reported. Positive behaviour change for adoption of safe sanitation practices as well as ensuring that no one is left behind, are key to achieve the goal of the Swachh Bharat Mission," the advisory said.
In the last five years, tireless efforts have been made by village motivators, elected panchayat officials, community-based organisations and government officials to take up extensive behaviour change communication activities to encourage rural households to stop defecating in the open and use toilets instead, a statement quoting the advisory said.
This has led to a massive public movement that in turn has resulted in an unprecedented change in the rural sanitation situation of the country and people from all walks of life have shown an exemplary commitment towards making India Open Defecation Free (ODF), it said.
"This advisory for adoption of non-coercive approach under Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) has been issued as a follow up of an earlier similar advisory issued on July 25, 2017 suggesting that the states must avoid any coercive measures for ensuring construction and usage of toilets.
"The government of India is committed to the achievement and sustaining of open defecation status across rural India and reiterates that no one should be left behind, and that if there is any eligible beneficiary who has been left out, the concerned state and district should ensure that this basic service is speedily provided," the statement said.