Of Dirt and Cleanliness – Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Nityanand Jayaraman

Is The Clean India Campaign just another Singara Chennai? What do they propose to clean and what needs cleaning instead? Please read and share.


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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3 thoughts on “Of Dirt and Cleanliness – Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Nityanand Jayaraman

  1. “Sixteen-year-old Ramachandra Dikshitar finishes his morning rituals early. Bathing is a waste, considering he will be neck-deep in garbage within the hour. But as a practising brahmin, sandhya vandanam — the thrice daily prayer to the gods at dawn, noon and dusk — is a part of his life. Ram, his mother and brother all work as ragpickers in the city’s garbage dump. They live in a traditional agraharam — a cluster of brahmin households — built around a Shiva temple. All of this is now surrounded by the garbage dump. This is one of many garbage dumps that have come up near the agraharams of indigent brahmins across the country. As recently as a decade ago, the local Shiva temple used to attract numerous pilgrims. The livelihood of the brahmin families in the agraharam was, in one way or another, associated with the temple. Now, with the expanding garbage dump, visits to the temple by pilgrims have dwindled, pushing the agraharam families into near destitution. Like many of the country’s less fortunate, Ram’s family and many other brahmins too saw the silver lining in the project imposed on his community and sought to earn a livelihood in ragpicking.

    If the above story were true, or even conceivable, we could agree with the many who claim that modern-day discrimination is based solely on economic terms, not on caste or communal lines. But Dikshitar is fiction, as is his garbage-dump agraharam and the band of brahmin scavengers.” – Garbage as a Metaphor by Nityanand Jayaraman



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