NEW DELHI: The Modi government has deplored a statement made by the UN Special Rapporteur Leo Heller on Mahatma Gandhi, terming the same as “seriously insensitive” to the Father of the Nation.

Heller, the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, was on a two-week visit to India. In a statement on Friday, Heller said: “Everywhere I went, I saw the logo of the Clean India Mission – Gandhi’s glasses. In its third year of implementation, now is a critical time to replace the lens of those glasses with the human rights lens.” The Indian government said it deplores the “serious insensitivity” shows towards Gandhi.

“The world knows that the Mahatma was the foremost proponent of human rights, including for sanitation, his unique and special focus. Gandhiji’s glasses, the unique logo of the Swachh Bharat Mission, epitomise core human rights principles,” the government said in a statement. Heller was on a visit to India from October 27 to November 10. “While, the UNSR appears to complement India’s efforts in recent years in addressing gaps in water and sanitation services through an unprecedented commitment, he goes on to make sweeping judgements which are either factually incorrect, based on incomplete information, or grossly misrepresent the drinking water and sanitation situation on the ground,” government said in a strong rebuttal to Heller’s statement.

Heller had called on India to incorporate a human rights perspective in its national programmes on water and sanitation. “Eliminating open defecation is not only about building latrines, but requires adequate methods for behaviour change, and sufficient water supply is a pre-requisite for the sustainable and safe use of adequate, low-cost latrines. The Indian Government’s emphasis on constructing toilets should not overshadow focus of drinking water provision for all and it should not involuntarily contribute to violating fundamental rights of others, such as those specific caste-affected groups engaged in manual scavenging, or those who are marginalized such as ethnic minorities and people living in remote rural areas,” Heller had said.

The government rebutted Heller saying that while he admitted in his statement that “two weeks is not sufficient to fully understand all aspects of the situation of human rights to water and sanitation in a country as big, diverse and complex in India”, he has still gone ahead to make the unsubstantiated allegation that human rights principles have not been properly addressed in India’s water and sanitation programmes. “The Central Government strongly rejected his (Heller’s) mostly baseless assertions and reiterates that the Swachh Bharat Mission and the rural and urban drinking water programmes fully conform to the Human Rights Criteria and Principles (as established by the UN system),” the government has said in a strong statement.

The government also said that Heller exhibited an incomplete understanding of water and sanitation in India and failed to acknowledge the paradigm shift in national sanitation policy which has moved from construction of toilets to open defecation free communities and “seems to be looking at the SBM from a tinted lens.” The government has also criticised the “inaccuracies, sweeping generalizations and biases revealed in the UNSR’s rambling report (often confusing between rural and urban) on human rights and water supply and sanitation in India, which has been produced after only a two week visit with fleeting trips to a few states and including some anecdotal references”. The Government added that it the highest commitment to human rights in general and particularly in the water supply and sanitation sectors and strongly rejects the claims in the UNSR’s report and press statements.

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Article source: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/government-attacks-un-special-rapporteur-over-insensitive-comment-on-mahatma-gandhi/articleshow/61593688.cms

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