NEW DELHI: India's Swachh Bharat Mission was today faulted by a visiting top sanitation and water expert of the United Nations, or UN, for not addressing the "human rights principles" in its implementation, provoking an angry government to move with lightning speed to deliver its sharp rebuttal.
- Swacch Bharat Mission not addressing human rights principles: UN expert
- He claimed authorities were following abusive practices to meet targets
- Government statement said UN expert's report was replete with biases
A government statement issued within hours of the world body's expert Leo Heller's presentation, said the special rapporteur's "rambling report" was replete with "inaccuracies, sweeping generalizations and biases".
In his report at the end of a two-week visit to India, United Nations Special Rapporteur Heller underlined that the implementation of the "open defecation free" programme should not be "human rights free" and expressed concern that efforts for providing access to water had moved at a slower pace than sanitation.
The UN special rapporteur had also highlighted what he called, substandard services for people and groups in vulnerable situations, and questioned claims that the massive effort to build new toilets would end manual scavenging.
"The right to water and the right to sanitation are distinct but integrated rights. Just as water and sanitation services go hand in hand, the rights to access water and sanitation must be addressed as a package," Mr Heller said.
He had also drawn attention to the "aggressive and abusive practices" by authorities to deliver on targets, pointing to instances where officials had cancelled ration cards or cut power supply to people who did not have a toilet at home.
"The Indian Government's emphasis on constructing toilets should not overshadow the focus of drinking water provision for all and it should not involuntarily contribute to violating fundamental rights of others," Mr Heller said.
Listing out the steps that the government had already taken to address the points made by the visiting expert, the government also singled out his reference to Mahatma Gandhi's glasses, the logo of the ambitious sanitation campaign.
"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 had said.
The government "has deplored the serious insensitivity towards the Father of our Nation shown by Mr Leo Heller", the official statement said, pointing that Gandhiji's glases, the unique logo of the Swachh Bharat Mission, epitomise core human rights principles.