After vehement protests by Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy, civil societies and the common people, LG Bedi withdrew her order by Saturday night. Reportedly, after receiving “assured commitment that rural areas will be open defecation free by June 2018.” She claimed that her intent was misread and poor people will not be denied their rations and she was “happy to give them some more time”.
As reported by The Wire, LG said that she had,“already sanctioned and directed to provide quality food grains to needy families.” She added, “the communication under comment is an expression of my serious intent and concern about addressing the causes of health hazards in rural areas and to compel performance of community and administrative leadership.”
What was the order?
On Saturday morning, after touring Mannadipet village, LG Kiran Bedi issued an order linking open defecation free (ODF) status to free rice distribution in the Union Territory. This provision for the poor and the needy was to be made conditional on meeting sanitation targets. LG Bedi’s order meant that ‘more than half the population’ of Puducherry would have been denied free rations till the villages can be certified as ‘Open defecation free’ by respective legislators and Commune Commissioners. As reported by the Deccan Chronicle, she told the villagers, “If you want dialysis machine, clean up your village. You want free rice, clean up your village… Men, women children, everyone clean up your village. You have one month’s time. It will be given to you only on the condition that the village is clean.”
LG Bedi communicated her order to the Puducherry CM and the Civil Supplies Commissioner and announced the same on her official Twitter account.
Linked Free Rice distribution to respective constituency MLAs & Commune Commisioners Certifying villages open defecation free and of strewn garbage and plastic.
Free Rice reaches out to more than half d population primarily in rural areas
This is d learning of morning round today pic.twitter.com/CCIaVAGdDT
— Kiran Bedi (@thekiranbedi) April 28, 2018
Heavy Criticism Ensued
According to reports, the LG in her letter to Chief Minister Narayanasamy said, “this action, I presume, will inculcate a sense of responsibility/duty amongst our people and will hasten our objective of SwachhGrameen Union Territory.”She also asked NABARD to only aid those NGOs which have “inbuilt waste management as integral part of its training programs.”
While the CM referred to this order as being against the constitution, AIDMK leader Anbazhagan said that threatening the poor is unbecoming of Bedi’s position as the LG. As reported by Scroll.In, Congress leader Pawan Khera asked whether this order has come from the centre of is the LG acting alone. He further said, “she is ordering officials that let people die of hunger but don’t give them ration.” Various social activist groups protested on social media, referring to the LG’s order as ridiculous,’ ‘insensitive’ and ‘anti-poor.’
The Logical Indian Take
To provide civic amenities and sanitation facilities is the responsibility of the administration. This order is more noticeable because Bedi, in her position as the Lieutenant Governor, tried to prevent the poor from getting what is entitled to them. However, in India, many such cases have come to light previously also where the administration is more focused on targets rather than on outcomes, often aggressively so and even to the extent of possible human rights violations.In this context, it is essential that this blatant misuse of power not go unchecked. Moreover, it also needs to be seen whether LG had any authority to hold the rations hostage in the first place.
The former IPS officer, Bedi, has been Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry since 2016. Puducherry has both, a CM and council of ministers along with the LG administrative setup. The only other Union Territory in India with a similar structure is the NCT of Delhi. Incidentally, both these UTs have been in the news recently over the repeated conflicts between the respective CMs and LGs. In 2015, Kiran Bedi failed to win New Delhi elections as the BJP candidate.
Also published on Medium.