Bihar Teachers Protest 'Name and Shame' Part of Open Defecation Free Campaign

Defying the administration, school teachers have refused to implement administration’s order to photograph people defecating in the open.

New Delhi: In a rare show of defiance, Bihar’s teachers are refusing to implement an order passed by block development officers (BDOs) in several districts across the state. As part of the state’s open defecation free (ODF) campaign, BDOs have asked the teachers to photograph individuals defecating in the open. But even as they back the ODF, teachers have flatly refused to take part in the humiliating ‘name and shame’ campaign.

Teachers’ associations have said that they find it “difficult” to comply with the instructions because it “insults teachers”, undermines “dignity” and could “endanger safety,” according to an Indian Express report. In a letter to chief minister Nitish Kumar, Bihar Madhymik Shikshak Sangh general secretary and former MP Shatrughan Prasad Singh has demanded that the government withdraw the order asking teachers to inspect villages in the morning and evening.

The face-off with the teachers comes in the wake of the Aurangabad district administration’s decision to declare Pawai panchayat of Deo block ODF by December 31. Sixty-one primary and middle-school teachers have been enrolled in Pawai and 144 teachers in Muzaffarpur’s Kudni block for the ODF campaign.

“Teachers concerned are hereby ordered that they will create awareness about ODF among villagers and guardians in their panchayat. Alongside, they will post photographs (of open defecation). Morning follow-up is scheduled between 6 am and 7 am and evening follow-up between 5 pm and 6 pm,” said the Indian Express report, quoting the November 18 order issued by Harimohan Kumar, Kudni BDO. The report also cited another order issued by Deo BDO Pankaj Kumar Shaktidhar instructing, “Morning follow-up would begin from 5 am and evening follow-up from 4 pm everyday till December 27”.

This is not the first time that disturbing reports about such humiliating and strong-armed tactics in Swachh Bharat implementation have surfaced. In September, the Ranchi Municipal Corporation had resorted to making offenders hand over their clothes to deter them from defecating in the open.

Also read: Using Threats, Arrests and Benefit Cuts, Rajasthan Is Pushing Through the Swachh Bharat Mission

Recall also the incident that took place in Rajasthan’s Pratapgarh town five months ago. The town’s municipality workers allegedly beat to death Zafar Hussein, a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), who was trying to stop them from photographing women defecating in the open. Some, however, believed that Hussein died from natural causes. Regardless of the controversy, there was no disputing that Rajasthan state employees attacked Hussein who protested their photographing women defecating in the open because they do not have toilets they can access.

As Shruti Jain pointed out in her report in The Wire, “Three years after it was launched, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has made little or no difference to the people here in one of the poorest pockets of Pratapgarh district.”

“It was a conspiracy to kill Zafar chachaji,” said Yasmeen, one of the women who said they were photographed by civic officials while defecating in the open. “Even after repeated threats from the officials to demolish our homes because we lack leases and toilets, chachaji wrote a memorandum to the nagar parishad protesting the public shaming of women who were forced to defecate in open in the absence of toilets at home. He even demanded money for construction of toilets at home.”

In their rush to declare states defecation free, governments are setting targets randomly. For instance, according to a report in The Wire, the Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje has committed to making the state defecation free by the end of this year. “In a review meeting of the panchayat raj department at the end of last month (May), officials informed Raje that 58 lakh toilets had been constructed in the state in the last three and a half years under the government’s Swachh Bharat mission, and 4,973 of the state’s 9,891 gram panchayats were declared open defecation free,” said the report.