Modi declares India ‘Open Defecation Free’ . . .
Today marks the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Also today, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who recently received the Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers award for his ‘Clean India’ campaign, declared the country ‘Open Defecation Free.’ The Clean India campaign actively aimed at curbing the issue of open defecation in India by installing millions of ‘working’ toilets in households, among its other goals. Despite that number, people continue to openly defecate due to inaccessible or poorly maintained toilets. And while the number of toilets has reduced open defecation, the campaign has done little to spread awareness about related health and hygiene issues. While Modi spoke of the Clean India campaign and its success at the UN General Assembly last week, two Dalit children were attacked and killed in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh for openly defecating in a village that has been marked ‘ODF.’ While the reasons for the children’s death remains unclear, Dalits have long faced oppression and discrimination including lack of access to basic necessities such as housing, crematoriums, and toilets.
Meanwhile, at the UN General Assembly . . .
Gandhi was a popular advocate of non-violence, however, the UN General Assembly last week grappled with increasing tensions between India and Pakistan, and the potential for heightened violence. Both the Indian and Pakistan prime ministers commented on terrorism in their UN speeches, with Modi asking world leaders to unite against terrorism and Imran Khan beseeching them to disambiguate terrorism from Islam. In reference to Kashmir, Khan suggested that the UN must act before the two nuclear countries react with violence. Even though Modi did not allude to Kashmir at the Assembly, during the recent ‘Howdy Modi’ diaspora event in Houston, Texas, he defended his government’s stand on Kashmir.
A swing to the right . . .
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has courted controversy since the 2019 Indian elections. India has since revoked the special status of Kashmir, initiated a National Register of Citizens in Assam (a list that is set to spillover to other states), and the Union Home Minister has recently appealed to unite the country under the one language of Hindi. In the U.S., Modi has openly supported a Trump-led government for 2020. These activities all seem to underscore a rising populist nationalism in India. Considering the ongoing negotiations on a Canada-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), it is pertinent for Ottawa to consider the Indian government’s recent actions as they relate to Canada’s drive for a more ‘progressive’ trade strategy abroad.
- Al Jazeera: 'Howdy, Modi!': Trump attends Indian PM's rally in Houston
- Al Jazeera: 5+1 moments to remember from UNGA 2019
- The Guardian: The Gates Foundation shouldn’t legitimise Narendra Modi