On October 2nd, 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, leader of the far-right wing party, launched the “Clean India” Mission (Swachh Bharat Mission, or SBM), promising to make India clean by October 2nd, 2019. This began a national push towards sanitation—the safe disposal of human fecal waste. Sanitation is a complex topic in India, entwined with cultural notions of gender, the state, caste, and purity/pollution. This dissertation explores the networks and lifeworlds of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) engaged with sanitation under a government with contentious relations with NGOs.
This work is based on 19 months of fieldwork in Delhi, India, from March 2016 until April 2017, including 82 semi-structured interviews; media review; and participant-observation in offices and events. I argue that NGOs must be understood as entities defined by their horizontal relations to other actors and not simply as isolated as vertical productions linking beneficiaries to donors. This work is situated at the intersection of discard studies and the anthropology of global health.
This work compares three NGOs: WaterAid-India; Sulabh International; and Safai Karmachari Andolan (“Manual scavenger mission”, or SKA). I compare their organizational structures; modes of self-representation; and relationships with the state, other NGOs, and media.
WaterAid-India represents the international sanitation sector. They balance working with and advocating for marginalized groups with advising the volatile government to accomplish their overall goals of expanding sanitation coverage. Sulabh is a famous India-based organization founded and controlled by a single charismatic leader. It has the reputation of a charity but functions as a business building and maintaining toilets. SKA is an activist organization dedicated to the eradication of manual scavenging (human collection of feces) by means of community mobilization and legal pressure and challenges.
As they influence the broader discourse, these NGOs make arguments about purity/pollution. Shit and caste are constructed as technical variables; as substances that can be transformed through the infusion of ‘purer’ matter; or as symptoms of a system of inequality that needs to be abolished. These arguments are influenced by not only the political and material configurations of the individual organizations, but their underlying ideologies and values.
Table of Contents
TABLE OF CONTENTS 2
LIST OF FIGURES 3
LIST OF TABLES 4
1: A CROWDED FIELD: CATEGORIZING NGOS IN THE SANITATION SECTOR 62
WELCOME TO THE OFFICE 111
2: “A CRITICAL FRIEND”: WATERAID-INDIA 117
WELCOME TO THE OFFICE 159
3: “SANITATION IS OUR RELIGION”: SULABH INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL SERVICE ORGANIZATION 167
WELCOME TO THE OFFICE 226
4: “STOP KILLING US!”: SAFAI KARMACHARI ANDOLAN 231
5: TO SERVE MOTHER INDIA BY REMOVING DIRT: FILTH AND HEALTH IN SBM 284
WORKS CITED 370
About this Dissertation
|Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor|
|Private Acts, Public Stories: Sanitation NGOs during the ‘Clean India’ Mission ()||2019-04-24||