Monthly Archives: May 2014

The ‘Sanitation Innovation Design Contest’ of 2013 is actually the outcome of informal conversations. In 2009, Shyama (FIN) held a innovation contest for rural masons and she spoke about the outcomes in a conference she was organizing for the FINISH programme. There Valentin Post -one of the founders of the FINISH programme- said, “But, why don’t we do it for the whole of India?” And that’s how WASTE which is a founding partner of FINISH society in New Delhi launched a programme of identifying cost effective replicable sanitation systems for rural India through contests. This is the second in the series that FIN is organizing for the FINISH programme. Click here to know who won and what they won the contest for… SIDC 2013

SIDC 2013 ( PDF | Powerpoint .pptx | Prezi )

How time flies! While it’s nice to see things happening….because things are happening….and the SWAM project (Sanitation, Waste And Management) is taking shape….we are starting to generate data on progress.

FIN 2014 First Trimester Results ( PDF | Powerpoint .pptx | Prezi )

Indian Citizens have voted for the winds of change to sweep through India! Let’s make good things happen!

By Shyama and Rushva

Narendra ModiToday the BJP (Bharthiya Janata Party or the people’s party of Bharath) led by Narendra Modi won the Indian Parliamentary elections by a landslide, winning 285 seats out of the 543 seat Lok Sabha! The Congress party led Rahul Gandhi of the dynastic Gandhi family, descendants of India’s charismatic first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, has suffered a crushing defeat winning a mere 43 seats and losing 166 of its former ones. In more than 6 decades of Indian independence, there have only been four non-Congress governments, once following the emergency in 1977 (though even at this low point in its popularity the Congress had won 189 seats), the second, a short lived government in 1989, the third, another short lived government in 1996, and finally the BJP led NDA following the Kargil war in 1999. Thus, in removing the Congress led coalition (UPA or United Progressive Alliance) that has been in power since 2004, the people of India have ushered in a new historic era today.

Is there a potential for real positive change? Yes, we believe so. The BJP will form a strong government at the center, and by doing so, it will be the first government formed with a single party crossing the halfway mark of 272 without coalition partners since 1984. The last few governments have seen the national parties being held ransom by their coalition partners, the strong women leaders who run their states independently (Amma – mother or Jayalalitha; Didi –elder sister or Mamta Banerjee) and such risks are no longer present. The success of the BJP is attributed to two factors: (i) the belief that every vote for the BJP – no matter who the candidate – is a vote for Modi; and (ii) a strong anti-Congress sentiment. Indeed, a number of newcomers standing for reform were pitched by the BJP. For instance, there have been a number of first time politicians who have won, including film star celebrities like Hema Malini, Paresh Rawal, Kiron Kher (all BJP). On the other hand, some Congress stalwarts, including Cabinet Ministers Kabil Sibil and Salman Khurshid and Home Minister Shushil Kumar Shinde, have lost.

What does the rest of the world think? In the Western Press, which is very powerful, so far, Nardendra Modi has been mostly castigated as an intolerant religious bigot. Today, the Guardian in the UK has declared that it is a victory for a Hindu Nationalist. It fails to mention in the same text that Modi is leading in the Muslim dominated regions of the Uttar Pradesh proving that the Muslims too are riding on the hope of development and economic prosperity that Modi promises. Moreover, it is very clear that no extremist can be voted to power in a country as diverse as India. They leave out equally conveniently, public statements of his, such as: “I define secularism as nation first, India first. Justice to all, appeasement to none. No vote-bank politics – a poor man is a poor man, where he prays is immaterial.” The press affects the perceptions of the governments too, for the Western governments too have not particularly been pro-Modi. The United States, for example, have denied him a visa for his alleged involvement in the 2002 riots. The Chinese, on the other hand, have been holding discussions with Modi since several years. The West that values its relationship with India, particularly the US, and which sees India as a key counterbalance to China in Asia, will have to rethink their policies towards Modi.

What do the academics think? In India, in most public academic circles, and in many gatherings of hi-brow intello-intellectuals (!), it has been politically correct to engage in loud Modi-bashing because it’s not politically correct to affirm affiliation to a group unless it happens to be one of the minority ones. It is also very fashionable to squeak against the Congress while calling for “reform, revolution and change” – the all time favourite buzz words. “I say, we must have reform and that can happen only through a revolution”. “Interesting – then what? …Who is going to take over and what’s the plan in the post-revolution phase??”… here the speech/conversation is switched to another topic conveniently. Hence, the space of Indian intellectuals is also going to be interesting to watch, especially if good things happen.

So is everything rosy and good about the new team? No – of course not. A number of points bother all tolerant and peace loving people in India – the silence on the Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujarat, the hugging of Hindu monks who are viewed as being anything but holy by a large majority and statements by BJP party members against women and homosexuality.

That said, Modi has a good record of ushering in economic development in the State of Gujarat, which he governed and if he can extend this to India – it would anchor his name deeply in Indian history as a hero. The markets are already responding positively towards the pro Modi wave. The sensex surged 1,470 points to hit a new life-time high of 25,375.63 in early trade fuelled by hopes that the BJP government would fast-track reforms and accelerate economic activity and in the forex market, the rupee climbed to 11-month high of 58.62 against the US dollar.

It is truly a challenge to sustain inclusive development while building industrial capabilities in a country as large and as diverse as India, which is also struggling with a huge poverty burden. And mistakes will not be tolerated.

What are the implications for the cause of sanitation coverage in India? And for us? Last October Narendra Modi addressed a huge rally of students in Delhi and he told them: “Make toilets before temples”. That’s good for us! The village Panchayat and major decision makers in Kameshwaram worked together to raise lakhs of rupees (gathered from all relatives working in the Gulf, Malyasia and Singapore) two years back to make a temple. Very active even today, it stands as testimony to the effectiveness of the elected officials – but sanitation coverage is still only a bit more 50% in the village. So, let’s go for it Modi! We are for everyone in Kameshwaram having a toilet and a waste bin – before anyone starts building a new temple, mosque or church here!

Shyama V. Ramani and Rushva Parihar
Founder FIN and Student intern FIN