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Turgidly Tooting Modi’s Toilets: Development Gurus Dismayed at Gates Foundation Award

A letter by 37 development academics and practitioners condemning the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation over its intention to give the Goalkeepers Global Goals award to the Indian prime minister

Published on the Guardian

Although imperfections exist in any democracy, the attitude of leaders is crucial when faced with such events. Mr Modi has generally reacted with either silence or a delayed and weak response. More recently, the Modi government’s repressive communication blockade and militarised actions in Kashmir and the crisis of detention camps that is unfolding due to the national register of citizens in Assam have undermined democratic process, and the health, security and rights of Indian citizens in these states.

As international development academics and practitioners, we are dismayed that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) intends to give its Goalkeepers Global Goals award to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi on 24 September despite widespread global condemnation (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation under fire over award for Narendra Modi.

We recognise the considerable efforts made by the Indian government in tackling India’s sanitation crisis. Yet while Modi has brought the issue into mainstream political discourse, evidence suggests there remains a massive gap between the rhetoric and reality of the achievement of universal sanitation under his watch. Open defecation still prevails, alongside problems concerning sustainability and equity, especially for sanitation workers, and rights-based access.

But what is most worrying is Modi’s human rights record and divisive politics, which prevent the realisation of the global goals that BMGF promotes. During his time as Gujarat chief minister and India’s prime minister, inflammatory hate speech, vigilante nationalism and violent acts against Christians, Muslims and women have been widespread. Freedom of speech and the right to dissent is under fire. Activists and critics have been jailed, killed and accused of being anti-national.

The BMGF award, along with the Seoul peace prize and UNEP’s Champions of Earth prize, serves to legitimise and embolden Modi and his supporters to intensify their divisive politics in a way that is in complete contradiction with the spirit and soul of sustainable, equitable and fair development.

Prof Lyla Mehta Institute of Development Studies, UK
Dr Kamal Kar Honorary associate, Institute of Development Studies, UK and Community-Led Total Sanitation Foundation
Dr Shilpi Srivastava Institute of Development Studies, UK
Mr Deepak Sanan Sanitation activist, India
Shibaji Bose Independent media consultant, India
Dr Arnab Acharya Economics and statistical consultant, USA
Prof Vinita Damodaran University of Sussex, UK
Dr Anuradha Joshi Institute of Development Studies, UK
Prof Sanjay Reddy New School for Social Research, USA 
Dr Deepta Chopra Institute of Development Studies, UK
Dr Pauline Oosterhoff Institute of Development Studies, UK
Dr Subir of Oriental and African Studies, UK
Dr Prarit Agarwal Department of physics and astronomy, Seoul National University, South Korea
Prof Ian Bryceson Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway
Dr Dolf te Lintelo Institute of Development Studies, UK
Prof Ben Rogaly University of Sussex, UK
Dr Gavin Collins National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland
Dr Lars Otto Naess Institute of Development Studies, UK
Dr Synne Movik Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway
Dr Suchi Pande Research scholar, USA
Prof Emeritus Bill Derman Norwegian University of the Life Sciences
Dr Nicholas Nisbett Institute of Development Studies, UK
Prof Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt The Australian National University
Dr Rosemary Collard Simon Fraser University, Canada
Prof Ian Scoones IDS, University of Sussex, UK
Dr. Rohan D’Souza Kyoto University, Japan
Dr Syed Abbas Institute of Development Studies, UK
Seema Kulkarni Feminist, water and sanitation advocate, India
Dr James Ebdon University of Brighton, UK
Dr Pragya Srivatsava University of Pennsylvania, USA
Prof Khalid Nadvi Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, UK
Prof Bridget Byrne University of Manchester, UK
Dr Vera Mehta Senior advisor, Intergovernmental consultations, New York, US
Prof Sanae Ito Nagoya University, Japan
Dr Amrita Saha Institute of Development Studies, UK
Shruti Ajit Researcher, India
Dr Andrés Hueso Sanitation specialist, UK

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