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Keywords:

  • privatization;
  • sanitation services;
  • India;
  • World Bank;
  • thought style

Abstract

This article explores why the World Bank and its Indian government partners, in their efforts to reform the urban water and sanitation sector in India, have failed to recognize and address the intolerable working conditions of Dalit (outcaste) sanitation workers. The conceptual framework for the article is provided by the theory of thought-styles, developed by Ludwig Fleck and refined by Mary Douglas, and its application to neoliberal public policy by the North American legal scholar Sharon Dolovich, who observed the domination of the principle of ‘comparative efficiency’ in US prison policy debates. This approach is applied to understanding how the worsening conditions of already highly vulnerable Dalit sewage workers have been displaced from the sanitation policy debate. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.