The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has come under fire for its decision to honour Indian prime minister Narendra Modi with an award later this month.
The Foundation will honour Modi for his Swachch Bharat Mission, which has built millions of toilets for India’s population.
On Tuesday (10) , a group of south Asian Americans wrote an open letter to the Gates Foundation urging the organisation to rescind the award, citing the detention and deportation of Muslims in Assam and Kashmir.
“For over a month now, PM Modi has placed 8 million people in Jammu and Kashmir under house arrest, blocked communications and media coverage to the outside world, detained thousands of people including children, and denied basic benefits. Reports of torture, including beatings and the murder of a young child by Indian security officers, are emerging as well,” said the letter.
“The award will signal the international community’s willingness to overlook, and remain silent, in the face of the Indian government’s brazen violations of human rights principles.”
The Foundation will host the fourth annual Goalkeepers ‘Global Goals Awards’ on September 24.
In a statement, the Gates Foundation said that prime minister Modi was being recognised for the progress India is making to improve sanitation as part of its drive toward achievement of the UN sustainable development goals.
“Globally, sanitation-related diseases kill nearly 500,000 children under the age of five every year,” said the statement.
“Yet despite its importance, sanitation has not received significant attention. A lot of governments are not willing to talk about it, in part because there are not easy solutions.
“Before the Swachh Bharat mission, over 500 million people in India did not have access to safe sanitation, and now, the majority do. There is still a long way to go, but the impacts of access to sanitation in India are already being realised. The Swachh Bharat mission can serve as a model for other countries around the world that urgently need to improve access to sanitation for the world’s poorest.”
So far, 90 million toilets have been built to eliminate open defecation by October 2, 2019. Currently, 98 per cent of India’s rural population has rural sanitation coverage, compared to the 38 per cent four years ago, reported Press Trust of India.
However, according to a The Guardian report, many of the newly-built toilets remain unused because of poor access to water. Caste rules also restrict them from cleaning them.