So much of social science is in this paragraph

Saradhu Dhivar, 57, an unemployed villager, said he had daily spats with Mr. Koshle’s associates, arguing that Nimora had ample space to go “freestyle.” His food entitlements were withheld for a month, he said, until he built a toilet. It took days “to get used to this style,” he said.

There is much more:

In October, Mr. Koshle sealed a gap in the walls of a school whose large, grass-covered grounds had become a bathroom of choice. Dozens marched to his home in protest, wielding water buckets they carry for outside duty. They demolished the wall.

In December, Mr. Koshle got his police friends to stage the faux arrest of four locals he had instructed to relieve themselves outside—an attempt to strike fear, he said. He rented an auto-rickshaw with a loudspeaker, announcing that transgressors’ electricity supply would be cut.

Recently, teams of saree-clad women kept daily vigil around lakes and grassy fields from 4:30 a.m., shouting pro-toilet slogans and blowing whistles at offenders.

“Going to the toilet has become very political,” said Mr. Koshle. “You can’t imagine the hostility we’ve encountered.”

Don’t forget this:

“I like to take a walk,” said Luv Nishad, 35, a laborer in the village of Nagar, “and do my business away from where we sleep and pray.”

Here is the Niharika Mandhana WSJ story, via the excellent Samir Varma.


Before we laugh at the poor benighted Indian peasants, let us consider US antivaxxers, a phenomenon that addles on both left and right of the political spectrum alike, and is not all that much different from the just as irrational belief that outdoors defecation is wholesome.

True to some extent. Though the anti-vaxx phenomenon is moving against a public health measure that, despite its early struggles, was almost universally accepted a generation ago.

Don't be such a wowser. Enjoy a hearty laugh at both.

This post is the perfect example of whataboutism.

Oh look, a squirrel!

I wonder what the libertarian solution is? Celebrate the villagers' choices? The Stalinist solution presumably involve shooting people.

Will this work? Well social shame worked well for jay walking. It worked well to impose stricter social mores on, for instance, the Catholic Irish population in the US. It may work in India. Presumably it only works if other Indians do it. It won't work if outsiders do.

I think the libertarian solution is to just give all of them h1b visas.

Because if the white working class is having problems, then clearly the answer is to bring in new Americans, streams (as it were) of them....

"I think the libertarian solution is to just give all of them h1b visas."

--- paging Hazel Meade to again provide her poka-yoke procedure for ridding America of its deplorables.

Is this sarcastic? I hadn't noticed any social shame for jaywalkers in New York City.

Respect for private property. Or rather, property that is not your own.

Respect for others'property is still problematic here in North America. From slob hunters who ignore "No Traspass" signs to the homeless who take the aluminum cover from backyard grills, it has varying degrees of seriousness.

Seems like rural India is an order of magnitude worse than our worse, though.

That brings up another thought... Shouldn't the USA have outdoor human waste issue in temperate public parks with lenient (progressive? left coast?) policies regarding the homeless and drug use? Seems like the average opioid addict wouldn't be too picky about where he 'goes'.

Indeed San Francisco has this exact problem with human waste in the streets

It worked well to impose stricter social mores on, for instance, the Catholic Irish population in the US.

I'm not sure what you mean. Irish Catholics are/were already really strict, at least when it comes to sexuality. Nobody needed to "impose" anything on them.

"The Stalinist solution presumably involve shooting people."

When I lived there, the solution of choice of the ordinary Soviet citizen was to select a page from Pravda with Brezhnev's picture on it.

The libertarian solution is to move & let live (or die). Libertarians just don't give a shuck (and generally use toilets). And they rely on personal hygiene, not aluminium-enhanced vaccines

Man it is really astonishing to read about a culture so different from anything one's ever known.

So much of social science is hiding its head in polluted ground. So much of social science hasn’t wanted to learn the lessons of the history of capitalism. So much of South Asia has not wanted to learn the lessons of social science. Why did capitalism produce the toilet and everything else we now deem sanitation-assisting including the hospital, the fridge, and the automated washing machine? You have only to consult Joseph Schumpeter. You see in South Asia the problems that Raghuram Rajan was not able to solve despite his being a rare sort of modern economist who believes in capitalism. The solution is simple, follow the model that most of postmodern social scientists have rejected as too nasty, not ever in their sheltered lives having experienced the dirty dispersal of detritus. I invented the modern toilet, and I can tell you in all honesty that neither my invention nor my entrepreneurship would have bubbled to the surface and revolutionised health and manners in the nineteenth century were it not for the flourishing green fields of capitalism in England, the property rights and so on, and the bad tempered bossy and uncouth leadership in England, which, notwithstanding its many faults, did for a while, in its own peculiar way, try its best to introduce basic foundations of civilisation in India as a precursor to more autonomous initiative, yet never succeeded in overcoming the resistance to toilets, timetables, or truth. You can read Rudyard Kipling to understand the context. You can visit India to see the consequences of denialism.

Thank you for inventing my favourite spot for thinking deep thoughts.
Was Mohenjo Daro Capitalist? It featured flush toilets, was mercantile and part of a large polyglot trading area.
What about the East India Company? Under their rule, even the three Presidency towns didn't have flush toilets. There was no sanitation act till twenty years into direct rule. As Kipling, a reporter in Lahore, pointed out in his articles, the enforcement of such acts was perfunctory or of a rent-seeking variety at best. Kipling thought that people of his Dad's generation, including Trevelyan type 'Competition Wallahs', had briefly tried to introduce good things to India and that the Indians had actually eagerly adopted such things but still he was profoundly pessimistic that the British would continue to possess the good qualities of heart and head that his Dad's generation had possessed. In the end the Brits would go back to being corrupt bureaucratic drones because the Indian climate permitted nothing else. This actually became the official view- though the quality of the technical cadres did not actually deteriorate. During the Second War, Lord Linlithgow suddenly pretended that the invention of air conditioning could give British rule a new lease of life- but no one was taken in.

Capitalism can easily turn into pure zero sum rent-seeking. Schumpeter was actually a Socialist. Read his masterwork. Creative Destruction encompasses Capitalism itself. However, Law & Economics- incentive compatible rights & duties- has a different horizon.

Schumpeter wasn't a socialist (I’ve read everything he wrote), but he did believe that socialism might win because capitalism would self-destruct under the stultifying pressure of crazy unscientific intellectuals whose education and careers capitalism itself had subsidised, intellectuals in academe and media exactly like those who are currently intent on annoying, baiting, inciting, delegitimising, and ultimately destroying the legitimately elected new president Donald Trump, a president who not surprisingly has little time for economists with bad track records, but a president who has the potential to seize the moment and unleash the type of post recessionary Social Shock which Schumpeter recognised as a structural imperative for capitalism's survival, a president whose tabula rasa is, as we speak, being filled by a Smörgåsbord of reactions against the vitriolic rants of his fanatical opponents instead of by reasonable give and take with moderate and well educated Republicans (as was the intention before the hijacking and provocation began). When you look at the factual details, nothing this fallible bossy-boots businessman has said is at all evil or at all wrong, rather it’s the manner in which he says it which provokes the socialist ranters, and it is the socialist ranters who could destroy the world as so often they almost have in the recent past. So, about the self-destruction of capitalism, Schumpeter might prove to have been right. Nevertheless he had no sympathy with the kinds of repetitive bad policies and self-inflicted wounds which characterise the history of countries like India. India did emulate the subsidisation of anti-capitalist intellectuals, but did not emulate the business enterprise of the West, and the result is that much of country still privileges Brahmin-style status differentiation and lacks the Bramah-style toilets.

As a non-Brahmin, I am very pleased with that last phrase of yours. I shall email it to my Brahmin colleagues.
In America, there is an expression 'does a bear sh*t in the woods'. Brahmins take pride in their forest dwelling ancestors. Indeed, the higher their sub-caste, the more recently they have emerged from the Jungle. You can't blame them too much for not grasping the concept of indoor plumbing.
Interestingly, poor Brahmins and Shramans (notably Buddhist monks) were enthusiastic converts to Communism precisely because they owned no property and had no idea how to conduct a business.
India's terrible economic record could be blamed on the Gramscian 'hegemony' of the Brahmin class though, of course, it was rent-seeking and bureaucratic empire building that did the dirty deed.
I'm optimistic about Trump. Never got a Govt. paycheck till now. A first for a POTUS.

I suppose the truth is Schumpeter was an opportunist and, quite sensibly, knew which side his bread was buttered. 'Capitalism, Socialism & Democracy' was big hit with Japanese Marxists for some inscrutable reason. Well, not so inscrutable really. As Economics became a profession, it paid its declasse aspirants to possess a dual laissez passer, Socialists by day at their Govt. job and enthusiasts for Enterprise when dining with the Institute of Directors or invited to a Country House for the weekend.

Interesting to be optimistic about Trump. That requires something I don't have in my own mind.

The U.S. has a minimally flexible caste system, as opposed to India's more rigid one. Some people manage to move up within our caste system, but not a large percentage. Our castes are based on income and assets. DT is in the highest caste, the billionaire caste. For this reason, many people consider him a superior person, despite all evidence to the contrary.

"Never got a Govt. paycheck till now" may sound great to some. But it is increasingly obvious that DT doesn't know how government works. And he continually effs up and causes chaos from not knowing that. If he's worked in government, or even had the slightest interest in it, he could have found out how it works.

In the U.S. we have often had some very smart, very generous, very moral people getting government paychecks, and doing a lot of good in public service. That's becoming less true now that it has become a U.S. cultural habit to bash government and government employees. Why give of your talents to the public, only to get bashed?

Ah, it's about the British. That didn't take long.

The doyen of Indian Sociology, the late M.N Srinivas, studied a village his own family had influence in. Just recently, some Social Anthropology students from the North East of the country visited that same village. One finding of theirs was that it was elderly, high caste men- like Srinivas- who were most addicted to public defecation. It seems the holy Brahman, like the holy cow, liked distributing faecal largess on the widest possible scale.
Modi is 'low caste'- i.e. his ancestors did useful things and did not engross rents simply- and his championing of toilets has to do with changing the balance of power in villages towards women- more especially those of 'low caste' origin.
Interestingly, ancient Indus Valley settlements- like Mohenjo Daro- had very good drains and sanitation. It has been suggested that the subsequent shift to 'manual scavenging' had to do with reinforcing power relationships. In this sense, Modi's toilet scheme undermines the caste system. However, rural elites in India have always found ways to turn bien pensant urban schemes to their own advantage. In this case, I suppose, they steal the money for building toilets and then harass the landless labourers who may be former 'debt slaves' or were oppressed in some other way.

As with Modi's demonetization scheme, even if the benefits are captured by elites, this toilet scheme too may reinforce his electoral prospects because of the signal it sends rather than anything it actually achieves.

On a different note, the criminalization of Indian Politics has hit a new high- a candidate for the Legislative Assembly had his own brother killed in order to benefit from a 'sympathy vote'. Someone tell Jed Bush.

Fascinating comments, as are some others here too.

No matter what country you are in, politics is about power, and about money which is one form of power. Other things e.g. toilet use, may make sense only within the context of the Main Thing-- power politics. Even something as simple seeming as using a toilet or not, can not be understood sometimes without its political power context.

Hi Arun,

Have you had a chance to look at rice institute's new paper on open defecation in India. ( ).

The paper offers interesting perspectives on how caste interacts with defecation practices affecting the actual usage of latrines. From the rice website: " these latrines require manual pit emptying, and because rural Indians equate manual latrine pit emptying with manual scavenging and degrading forms of labour traditionally done by dalits, the vast majority of people do not want to use an affordable pit latrine. Rural Indians use latrines with expensive pits that are either emptied by machine or never emptied, or they defecate in the open."

It's clear that the newly built options in these villages are not anything like Western-style toilets. Anyone who has lived or traveled in a country with less a developed toilet situation can probably see some of the downsides the reluctant villagers do. Outdoor pit-style toilets can be pretty disgusting, especially if shared by lots of people--even just a big family. They can be dangerous at night if there is little light. Sometimes the floors are made of creaky boards, something few people want to hover over in the dark at 2am. So yeah, I can see how a hot, putrid shack next to one's home is less preferable compared to talking a walk to a field and squatting behind your favorite tree, especially if that is how you've been doing it your whole life.

Grew up in the *rural* Midwest. Family reunions on a warm May are the worst, but it'd be far worse to have poo everywhere instead of in a pit.

"are the worst... far worse" I guess I mean far worster? Worsterse?

Especially if by "everywhere" you're referring to the local schoolyard.

+1, having travelled of the beaten track in various parts of China, its much more pleasant relieving oneself in the open (with suitable cover) in the Tibetan areas of the country where toilets can be rare and open defecation seems traditional, than in the horrible pit toilets prevalent in most of rural China.

Maybe there is a point in not granting people political independence before they learn to fo to the bathroom, it works with individuals and, I think, would work with nations, but whatever.

Tell FDR. He was the guy who was so hot for decolonialism.

Open-air defecation isn't a big deal in societies with a low population density and nomadic lifestyle. Dense, permanent settlements, however, require organized sanitation. A family of Eskimos wandering over frozen impermeable ground isn't much of a health threat to themselves or others. But gather a few score of them together in a permanent location and body wastes become a serious issue, as it remains even today.

and do my business away from where we sleep and pray

Yeah, so poop where your children play instead. Fucking retard.

Going to the bathroom outside is something that everyone does on camping and hiking trips where no facilities are available. In rural places in India, maybe it's sort of like everyone feels like they are always on a camping trip. In places where the population is sparse, it actually is perhaps more sanitary to go outside. As population per square mile increases, it become less so.

Interesting that the leaders thought only of punishing the populace for going outside, rather than thinking of some kinds of rewards that might be associated with toilet use. Or thinking up some kinds of behaviors that would gradually change into toilet using behavior-- successive approximations to the desired goal. But I guess they are not behavioral psychologists-- only people who mistakenly thought that punishments would lead quickly to the desired behaviors.

"Going to the bathroom outside is something that everyone does on camping and hiking trips where no facilities are available."

Yes and no. Polite people carry a small shovel with them on camping trips and bury it. They don't just tell everyone else to have fun with their waste. Heck, even my cats bury it.

I have encountered a number of outhouses/port-a-johns/vault toilets that made finding a nice spot in the woods seem like a vastly superior option.

If the shitters are nice and clean and flush the waste away, people will want to use them and take their time in there. If they aren't, it will take a whole lot of social and legal sanctions to change behavior.

Inspite of what this highly localized article written for a fun Sunday read for our lovely imperialistic western buddies suggests, things are changing on the ground; and may I add for the better.

Enjoy Trump, May and many more like them that are yet to come. :)

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