Open-defecation free villages: 70 per cent claims false in Karnataka

Bengaluru: Of 7,909 villages in Karnataka that declared themselves open-defecation free (ODF), only 2,383 villages, or 30 percent, have been verified by the state government to be fit for that status, states the India Spend report from last year. 

“In most of the villages, water and infrastructure are major problems. On top of that, many people still have the mindset of not having toilets attached or at their homes. People in rural areas find it a complex procedure and prefer to continue their habit of defecating in the open,” said Sumathi C.R., PDO of Somashettyhalli.

She said that Rs 12,000 for the general category and Rs 15,000 for SC/STs and other backward classes is given as grant by both central and state governments to build toilets.

The report raises several questions about the effectiveness of Swachh Bharat Mission, a flagship sanitation programme of the central government which aims to make India open-defecation free by 2019. The Mission’s website also states that only ten out of the country’s 29 states are OFD and Karnataka isn’t one of them. Even the state government has Swacha Grama Yojana, which aims to provide a clean environment to villages. Rahul Prasad, a social activist, said, “It is the gram panchayat’s responsibility to make sure that every house has a toilet. This is not happening because of the mid-level corruption or carelessness at the panchayat level management in implementing the programme.”

He said that it is the responsibility of the government to work with panchayats to ensure that villagers build toilets, and, more importantly, to create awareness at the grassroots. “They can’t create awareness just through TV advertisements as most villages still don’t have cable connections,” he said.

Of 2,04,245 villages throughout the country, only 1,05,456 have been verified as open-defection free, which works out to only 52%, despite government’s efforts through the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). 

India Spend also referred to another report by WaterAid, titled “Out of Order: The State of the World’s Toilets 2017”. It stated that India, the world’s second-largest country by population, has the highest number of people (732 million) without access to proper toilets. The report also states that 355 million women and girls lack access to proper toilets.

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