Men in Jharkhand have to be extra careful about potty time these days. The Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) and the Jharkhand police are confiscating the lungis of men who have been caught defaecating in the open, according to a report.
The lungi is a common male garment worn across India and is very commonly used in Jharkhand and West Bengal. It’s a long piece of cloth that men drape like a skirt around their waist. Snatching away men’s lungis as punishment is the Jharkhand police’s way of shaming men. There is still a lot of stigma attached to using toilets in India and many men and women, both in urban and rural areas, avoid using them. But it’s not just stigma that leads to open defaecation but also the lack of enough toilets. The perils of open defaecation are many, including risk of disease. Recent movies like Toilet, Ek Prem Katha have tried to highlight the hazards of open defaecation. But there’s still rampant flouting of sanitation laws and people openly defaecate on corners of streets, railway tracks or fields.
RMC’s tactic of confiscating lungis is rooted in fear and harassment. If men can be shamed by snatching away their lungis, who’s to say the same treatment won’t be meted out to women? But the Jharkhand police have assured that they return the lungis to men after they pay the imposed fine for defaecation and take a long walk home without a lungi.
The police deny that this is harassment. Jharkhand Urban Development and Ranchi MLA Minister C P Singh told The Indian Express that this shaming was “just a part of the entire exercise and not aimed at harassing people.” He added that they want to create some deterrence among open defaecators. It’s heartening that the police is taking initiative to discourage open defaecation in India. But measures like shaming people are desperate, in bad taste and reeks of ineffective planning. It’s also conspicuous that this sudden move is being made just before October 2nd, which is the deadline for making urban areas, open defaecation-free.