Now, only 5 per cent of GPs have toilets in all households

Even after devolution of powers over three decades, only five per cent of gram panchayats (GPs) in the State have toilets in all households, Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh told presspersons here on Friday. While noting that open defecation was absent in the southern districts, including Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, the Union Minister said that providing toilets for all households was a major challenge before Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister H.K. Patil.

“Karnataka should become free from open defecation in the next five years (2018). Tamil Nadu will become free from open defecation by 2015,” Mr. Ramesh said.

A sum of Rs. 10,000 was being provided for construction of toilets under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, as against Rs. 3,500 earlier.

Several toilets constructed were being used as godowns and storerooms in villages. “We need to develop the culture of using toilets,” he said.

Besides giving dignity to women, toilets would contribute to healthy living as per the medical evidences, he said.

Kerala and Sikkim have become open defecation-free States.

Funds to be withheld

Mr. Ramesh has warned the State government that grants for various Central schemes would be withheld as done during the previous BJP regime if it does not deliver the goods. “If this government does not change the way the MGNREGA and Indira Awas Yojana have been implemented, I will not hesitate in withholding funds. There is no politics in it,” Mr. Ramesh said. In April last year, Mr. Ramesh wrote to the then Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda saying that the release of the next instalment of the Central share for MGNREGA scheme to the State depends on how it was able to spend the funds available with it

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