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A majority of villages have no toilets

By Our Special Correspondent

BANGALORE, MARCH 21. Seventy per cent of the rural population in the State is without toilets even after the implementation of the Nirmala Karnataka and Swacha Grama Yojana schemes, the Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, H.C. Mahadevappa, told the Legislative Assembly today.

The Government was not able to provide toilets in villages for several reasons in the past. A sum of Rs. 20 crores has been allotted in the State Budget for 2005-06 for implementing the Swacha Grama Yojana. The scheme is meant for the integrated development of infrastructure in rural areas, Dr. Mahadevappa said during the discussion on the budget.

The Minister said Stree Shakti groups will be given more funds for implementing the Swacha Grama Yojana and the Nirmala Karnataka programme. About 500 Swacha Gramas will be created in the coming year. The department has sought more funds from the Centre under the Total Sanitation Programme, he said.

Earlier, Vatal Nagaraj of the Kannada Chaluvali Vatal Paksha said there is no meaning in presenting the budget unless the Government commits itself to providing toilets in villages and government schools.

Calling for an overhaul of government hospitals, Mr. Nagaraj pointed out that hospitals are the "breeding ground" for all kinds of diseases. Hospital kitchens are infested with rats, cockroaches and lizards. He said if it is not true, then he will resign from the House.

Mr. Nagaraj said if that is the situation in hospitals in cities, one can imagine the condition in primary health centres. The best of equipment in government hospitals are lying unused and that is a deliberate ploy to benefit private practitioners.

He also questioned how the Government had allowed Mallya Hospital in Bangalore to use the playground adjacent to Kanteerava Stadium for parking of vehicles.

Talking about the growth of Bangalore, he said there is an unhealthy trend of outsiders outnumbering Kannadigas. Of the population of over 65 lakhs, Kannadigas are about 25 lakhs. Criticising the IT czars N.R. Narayana Murthy, Chief Mentor of Infosys Technologies, and Azim Premji, Chairman of the Wipro Group, Mr. Nagaraj said the Government is buckling under their pressure and providing them with land, roads, and so on whereas other regions of the State remain neglected.

G.V. Sriram Reddy (CPI-M) said cultural backwardness is the major reason for the absence of toilets in rural areas. The Government should increase the amount granted for the construction of houses under schemes such as Ashraya, Ambedkar and the Indira Awas Yojana. At present, the Government is releasing Rs. 20,000 to each beneficiary under these schemes, which is not enough, he said.

When members were unable to provide concrete reasons for the absence of toilets ion villages, the Speaker, Krishna, said contractors are claiming money from taluk panchayat officials without building toilets. Funds sanctioned under the Nirmala Karnataka scheme have been misused in his Pandavapura constituency and not a single toilet has been built, he said.

`Create awareness'

The Leader of the Opposition, B.S. Yediyurappa, B.R. Patil (JD-S), Mr. Sriram Reddy and S.S. Patil (Congress) said the Government and voluntary organisations should create awareness among the villagers about the importance of toilets for community health.

Mr. B.R. Patil urged the Minister to issue an order directing gram panchayats to build at least two public toilets in each village.

Referring to the unhygienic conditions in government hospitals, Mr. Nagaraj said poor maintenance of hospitals by the Government is leading to people preferring private nursing homes. He urged the Deputy Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah, to direct private nursing homes to provide subsidised medical treatment for poor patients.

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