Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) campaign to publicly shame people who defecate in open has evoked objections from all sections of society.
BMC officers of the R-South Ward recently launched the drive in suburban Kandivali (West), which the civic body is contemplating to implement in other designated wards. BMC's nuisance detection squad officers are making people, who defecate in the open, do sit-ups, and circulating the pictures and videos of the punishment, which have gone viral on social networking sites.
Social rights activists, in particular, have taken exception to the 'humiliating' manner in which people caught defecating in public places are being shamed with sit-ups among other actions, and blamed the lack of public toilets in the city.
Supriya Sonar of 'Right to Pee' campaign told PTI, "This is very shameful. If you cannot provide the (toilet) facility, then you don't have right to violate the dignity of a person, which is in complete contravention of human rights. Just because they are poor slum-dwellers, BMC officers are showing such high-handedness. The BMC needs to first make good the shortage of public toilets," said Sonar, who has been working for the cause since 2011 in the city.
The legal sanctity of the campaign is another bone of contention.
"There is no specific law which makes defecation in public a criminal offence. However, if a person defecates publicly, he can be booked under the offence of committing obscene acts in public, which is a crime under section 110 of the Bombay Police Act and section 294 of the Indian Penal Code," lawyer and human rights activist Abha Singh said, adding, "In addition, he can be prosecuted under Section 290 of the Indian penal code for committing public nuisance."
She added, "Under the provisions of the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 1971, it is the responsibility of the government to provide sanitation facilities. It is thus necessary that the government performs its duties, failing which, the concerned public servants should be made accountable."
RTI activist Anil Galgali, calling the move a 'grave human rights violation', bemoaned insufficient infrastructure. He said, "Officials involved in this type of shaming should be ashamed."
A senior BMC official, requesting anonymity, said, "With the ever-increasing population, owing to influx of people, Mumbai's open air toilets are becoming a serious health hazard and following the Swachch Bharat campaign, the BMC is forced to act against such people."
He said, "The campaign is only about deterring open defecation, (and) not to humiliate the offenders." Shivji Singh, a corporator, opined that shaming the offenders would not solve the problem permanently. "Rather, BMC must fast-track the construction of public toilets all over the city."
Calls and messages made to BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta and Assistant Municipal Commissioner (R-South Ward) Sahebrao Gaikwad went unanswered.