The Centre on Friday criticised the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights for his statement on the Swachh Bharat Mission. Leo Heller had referred to Mahatma Gandhi’s glasses – the symbol of the government’s sanitation programme – and said, “In its third year of implementation, now is a critical time to replace the lens of those glasses with the human rights lens.”

Heller, whose two-week visit to India ended on Friday, said the implementation of the campaign to make India open defecation-free should not be “human rights free”. He claimed that authorities used “aggressive and abusive practices” to deliver on targets to build toilets.

The government said it “deplored the serious insensitivity towards the father of our nation” “The world knows that the Mahatma was the foremost proponent of human rights, including his unique and special focus on sanitation,” the Centre said. “Gandhiji’s glasses, the unique logo of the Swachh Bharat Mission, epitomises core human rights principles.”

The government also called Heller’s comments “factually incorrect, based on incomplete information, or grossly misrepresenting the drinking water and sanitation situation on the ground.” Emphasising that India had implemented rural and urban drinking water programmes that “fully conform to the Human Rights Criteria and Principles set by the United Nations”, the Centre “strongly rejected” Heller’s “mostly baseless” assertions.