A group representing the Digambara Jain community has asked the Madhya Pradesh government if their nomadic monks can be allowed to defecate in the open, in accordance with a century-old practice. This was after the central government asked panchayats to formulate a law to penalise people who defecate in the open, as part of its Swacch Bharat, or Clean India, Mission, reported Hindustan Times.

The Digamber Jain Social Group Federation submitted a memorandum to Madhya Pradesh Minister of Panchayat and Rural Development Gopal Bhargava seeking exemption for the monks. “We have asked the government to allow our monks and seers to attend the nature’s call in the open as they never use toilets for doing so,” said Ravindra Jain, the acting president of the federation.

“They follow a centuries-old strict lifestyle in which they only go in secluded or forested areas to attend nature’s call and that too once in a day,” he added. However, Bhargava denied receiving any such memorandum from the federation, according to the report.

Nearly 60% of the people defecating in the open in the world are from India, according to Minister of State for Drinking Water and Sanitation Ram Kripal Yadav. One of the objectives of the Swacch Bharat Mission is to make India open-defecation-free by October 2, 2019.