1.a) Towards a clean-up

The Swachh Bharat Mission is a high-profile national programme enjoying extraordinary political and budgetary support. With its subsidy based mass toilet-building programme, it has put up millions of individual house latrines in rural areas: a government-commissioned survey estimates that the coverage now extends to 62.45% of households, up from 39% in 2014. Among these households, nearly 92% of people who have access actually use the toilets. Big gaps exist, but these are encouraging trends, given the many positive outcomes that sanitation produces. The most important of these is reduced stress for women, who suffer silently in its absence. There are well-known gains to public health as well. Success can be measured, however, only through a rigorous assessment of how the new facilities fare over time. There is data from undivided Andhra Pradesh to show that household latrines built before the current Swachh programme lapsed into disuse because many rural households did not have a water source. The newer ones may meet the same fate without access to water. Also, Dalit houses tend to have lower coverage, hinting at structural difficulties in accessing schemes. Rural housing also needs stronger policy support, without which it cannot wipe out the deficit of about 60 million units that are needed to plan for universal toilet access. In the Centre’s assessment, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana have particularly failed to upgrade rural sanitation, while Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Gujarat have exceeded the goals. Given the substantial funding available from the Centre, State governments cannot have a convincing reason for a poor record. The Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, which has introduced a new district-level ranking, should persuade the more backward States to bring about infrastructure improvements. Yet, total Swachh will remain elusive, because even urban India has no comprehensive waste management plan, leave alone the less affluent rural areas. Nearly 60% of sewage generated in the cities currently flows untreated into rivers, waterways, lakes and the sea. The rules on segregation of waste remain on paper even in the bigger cities. It is now left to environmentally conscious citizens to adopt green practices, compost and sort their waste. The big metros generate a few thousand tonnes of garbage every day, and city managers focus their energies on transporting refuse to landfills. Many Indians do not see the waste they generate as their problem, and consider it to be someone else’s responsibility. Mahatma Gandhi saw in this attitude the pernicious roots of societal divisions, and campaigned against it. Achieving his vision for a clean nation will take more than symbolism — it needs clear policies and investments in the right systems.

  1.b) Race for Nairobi

Kenya’s elections typically have not just highly charged campaigns, but they are protracted affairs after the vote too, with fierce contestation over the result and often violence. It had been hoped that this month’s presidential election would break that cycle, but events have so far played to previous trends. All votes have still not been counted, but with well over 90% of the polling stations declaring results, President Uhuru Kenyatta had secured almost 55% of the vote, with the Opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, trailing by about 10 percentage points. Mr. Odinga of the National Super Alliance has disputed the provisional lead for the incumbent in Tuesday’s election. The former Prime Minister has claimed the Opposition alliance’s own tabulation is at variance with the provisional figures, alleging that official databases have been hacked. The election commission dismissed the allegations, insisting that the polls were held in a free and fair manner after an overhaul of the mechanism. Curiously, the poll authority said that it had not received any formal complaint from the Opposition. The suspense over the ultimate outcome is likely to linger, not just because the election commission is allowed seven days to declare the final tally. The two-stage process in the announcement of the results, besides poor electronic connectivity to interior regions, could complicate matters. For instance, the provisional tallies are based on text messages sent by the returning officers from various polling stations to the commission’s database. The final official results are calculated from the prescribed forms filled out at different polling centres and transmitted electronically to the commission. The technically complex system — the tabulation system broke down in the previous election — has added grist to the Opposition mill. Mr. Odinga had exuded confidence about his own prospects, while expressing cautious optimism about the conduct of a free and fair poll following a reshuffle in the electoral body. But he has now sought to make connections between the murder of a top poll official last week and the results. Equally, there have been concerns over the maintenance of law and order during previous elections. More than 1,000 people were killed in post-election violence in 2008, drawing international condemnation. The 2013 presidential election was marred by clashes. The availability of well-established channels to resolve electoral disputes is a pre-requisite for a functioning democracy, and Kenya needs to consider further reforms in the light of repeated disputes. But the shortcomings of these institutions cannot be a licence for the display of muscle power and violation of fundamental freedoms. The government as well as the Opposition have a moral responsibility to ensure that the current controversy does not deteriorate into violence and bloodshed.

Words/ Vocabulary

1) Put up

Meaning: Arranged beforehand in order to deceive someone.

Example: The whole thing could be a put-up job to get his wife over to Ireland.

2) Rigorous

Meaning: Extremely thorough and careful.

Example: The rigorous testing of consumer products.

Synonyms: Careful, Painstaking

Antonyms: Slapdash

3) Wipe out

Meaning: To lose control, especially in a vehicle, and have an accident.

Example: I was going too fast and I wiped out on the bend.

4) Elusive

Meaning: Difficult to find, catch, or achieve.

Example: Success will become ever more elusive.

Synonyms: Evasive, Puzzling

Antonyms: Facing, Understandable

5) Comprehensive

Meaning: Including or dealing with all or nearly all elements or aspects of something.

Example: A comprehensive list of sources.

Synonyms: Inclusive, Complete

Antonyms: Selective, Limited

6)  Affluent

Meaning: (especially of a group or area) Having a great deal of money; wealthy.

Example: The affluent societies of the western world.

Synonyms: Wealthy, Rich

Antonyms: Poor, Impoverished

7) Sewage

Meaning: Waste water and excrement conveyed in sewers.

Example: Sewage treatment.

Synonyms: Trash, Rubbish

8) Segregation

Meaning: The action or state of setting someone or something apart from others.

Example: The segregation of pupils with learning difficulties.

Synonyms: Separation, Partition

Antonyms: Connection, Integration

9) Conscious

Meaning: Aware of and responding to one’s surroundings.

Example: Although I was in pain, I was conscious.

Synonyms: Aware, Awake

Antonyms: Unaware, Unconscious

10) Pernicious

Meaning: Having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way.

Example: The pernicious influences of the mass media.

Synonyms: Harmful, Damaging

Antonyms: Beneficial, Favourable

11) Symbolism

Meaning: The use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities.

Example: He has always believed in the importance of symbolism in garden art.

Synonyms: Metaphor, Analogy

12) Contestation

Meaning: The action or process of disputing or arguing.

Example: Ideological contestation over social policy in the European Union.

Synonyms: Argument, Dispute

Antonyms: Agreement, Quiet

13) Disputed

Meaning: Argue about (something).

Example: The point has been much disputed.

Synonyms: Debate, Discuss

Antonyms: Accept

14) Incumbent

Meaning: Necessary for (someone) as a duty or responsibility.

Example: The government realized that it was incumbent on them to act.

Synonyms: Mandatory, Necessary

Antonyms: Optional

15) Overhaul

Meaning: Take apart (a piece of machinery or equipment) in order to examine it and repair it if necessary.

Example: The steering box was recently overhauled.

Synonyms: Rebuild, Revamp

Antonyms: Break, Damage

16) Exuded

Meaning: (of a person) display (an emotion or quality) strongly and openly.

Example: Sir Thomas exuded goodwill.

Synonyms: Emanate, Radiate

17) Deteriorate

Meaning: Become progressively worse.

Example: Relations between the countries had deteriorated sharply.

Synonyms: Worsen, Decline

Antonyms: Improve

18) Bloodshed

Meaning: The killing or wounding of people, typically on a large scale during a conflict.

Example: The president feared bloodshed and disorder if the demands for reform were not met.

Synonyms: Slaughter, Killing

Antonyms: Peace