Two children beaten to death in India for defecating in open

NEW DELHI (AFP) – Two children were beaten to death in India for defecating in the open, police said yesterday.

The children from the Dalit community, India’s lowest social caste previously known as “untouchables”, were on their way to their grandfather’s house in the Shivpuri district in the central state of Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday.

“It was early morning and they had stopped to attend to nature’s call” when they were attacked, Indian Police Inspector General Raja Babu Singh told AFP by phone. “The kids were taken to the hospital but they succumbed to their injuries.” Two brothers had been arrested, one of whom appeared to be “mentally unsound”, Singh added.

Modi is set to declare India free of open-air defecation on Wednesday, coinciding with the 150th birthday of independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, who also campaigned vigorously for better sanitation.

Modi, currently in his second term, launched his pet Clean India Mission in 2014, promising to build toilets for all by 2019.

The Indian Prime Minister’s government said it has built more than 100 million toilets, particularly in rural areas, a major public health issue in the country of 1.3 billion people.

The multi-billion-dollar campaign combines raising awareness, subsidies for making latrines, and communal naming and shaming of those still relieving themselves in the open.

Critics, however, said lack of running water, poor maintenance and slow behaviour change are hampering the progress of the programme.