Ranchi Civic Body Resorts to Public Shaming, Fining Open Defecators

At least ten people were made to hand over their lungis as punishment. Their clothes were returned only after they pledged not to defecate in the open again.

New Delhi: With the October 2 deadline for making urban areas open defecation free (ODF) inching closer, the Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) has resorted to unique measures like shaming the offenders by making them hand over their clothes to deter them from defecating in the open.

According to an Indian Express report, while at least ten people were made to give their lungis to the “enforcement” teams of RMC on Sunday (September 24), those caught defecating in the open on Monday were picked up from the spot, dropped off some distance away, asked to pledge to never defecate in the open again and then made to walk back home.

The corporation’s crusade is a part of its ‘Halla Bol Lungi Khol Abhiyan,’ according to Times of India.

Each of whose clothes were taken away were asked to pay a fine of Rs 100 and their lungis were returned only after each took the pledge.

Officials claim the aim of such measures of naming and shaming is to make the offenders realise the fact that defecating in public could lead to embarrassment.

C.P. Singh, the state urban development minister and a Ranchi MLA, told the Indian Express that these measures are not aimed at harassing people and are a part of the process of curbing open defecation, which also includes constructing toilets and providing water supply.

According to municipal officials, 31,559 toilets have been constructed as part of the ODF campaign.

“There may be shortcomings here and there. On the other hand, we have to raise awareness. For this, we have run concerted drives telling people why they should not defecate in the open. Like a drive by the traffic police to wear helmets, we first raised awareness, then imposed fine, and are now trying some of these methods,” Singh said. “The idea is to create some sort of deterrence.”

Naina Kumari, the daughter of Gopal Prasad Soni – one of those caught defecating in the open near the Harmu Housing Colony – said that they had applied for a toilet but their application had been rejected, and while there is a public toilet nearby, “there is no toilet in the gents section”.

Kumari told Indian Express: “There is a toilet in the ladies’ section which was installed three-four months ago,” which she said men often used. “In fact, my father too was stopped from using the ladies’ toilet. So he went outside, but was caught.”

According to Shashi Prakash, the city manager of RMC, where there wasn’t any space for an individual toilet in the slum area, community toilets have been constructed.

“They are around 20 in Ranchi. There are 50 additional modular urinals,” he said.

A senior municipal official associated with the campaign said that 18 “enforcement” teams had been formed and that while such drives have occurred before, the frequency has been stepped up due to the fast approaching deadline.

Municipal commissioner Shantanu Agrahari added that “public ostracism is often a good deterrence.”

“The results show that these initiatives are helping to check the number of those who defecate in the open,”Agrahari told Indian Express. “We will continue till October 2, and beyond. We are clear that those who have toilets should use them; those who don’t should use the community toilets.”

Ranchi mayor Asha Lakra, however, said that she was against the use of such measure and a formal order for their use has not been passed. “Creating awareness is one thing. I have talked to officials, I am sure this will not recur. It may have happened at one or two places.” she said.

According to Times of India, there have been similar campaigns to deter people from defecating in the open in other parts of the country as well. The district magistrate of Bijnore in Uttar Pradesh had last year formed three teams with its members armed with flashlights and whistles to single out those defecating in the open.