Havinamoole residents trek long distance to relieve themselves

Thirty-eight-year-old Shantamma, an anganwadi worker, who lives in Havinamoole, a village in the dense woods of Kollegal taluk in Chamarajanagar district, trudges a long distance every morning to attend to nature’s call.

Ms. Shantamma, however, is not alone. None of the 80 households in the village have toilet facility and all its 320 residents follow the same practice. “Whenever, we have to relieve ourselves, we go to the forest as we have no other choice. We are scared of wild animals. But what can we do? There is no other option as we do not have money to build toilets,” she said.

Although there are various government initiatives to provide toilets in the rural areas, a large number of households in the State do not have toilets.

As per the 2011 Census Data, in Chamarajanagar district alone, 1,86, 811 households, accounting for 76.5 per cent of the total households, do not have toilets.

Currently there are two Central government schemes for sanitation — the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), which is a comprehensive programme to ensure sanitation facilities in rural areas and eradicate the practice of open defecation. Apart from this scheme, the residents in rural areas can avail themselves of monetary help of Rs. 4,500 for construction of individual toilets under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

In spite of these schemes, a large percentage of people of Chamarajanagar district continue to languish without toilets in their homes. Officials of G.P. Palya Panchayat (Havinamoole village comes under this panchayat), however, claimed that the residents of the village were not willing to come forward to “make use of these programmes”.

R. Ravikumar, secretary, G.P. Palya panchayat said, “Majority of the people in these areas are tribal people and it is very difficult to convince them to make use of toilets. We have conducted several camps to created awareness about these schemes, but nothing seems to work here.”

But, Shanthamma’s husband, C. Mahadev, seeks to counter the argument put forth by the official. “We definitely want the toilets. We will be very happy to make use of the scheme. But, we do not know the procedure to avail it. We have approached the officials several times, but in vain,” he said.

Mr. Ravikumar admitted that although the panchayat had at its disposal Rs. 3.5 lakh for constructing toilets, the funds have remained untouched for about one and a half years. “About a month back, the zilla panchayat released some funds to build toilets in 33 houses. But before that, the funds allocated for toilets had not been utilised,” he added.

Doctors and health workers in the areas also said that a large number of people in these areas were prone to worm infection and anaemia as they resort to open defecation. A doctor who works in a PHC in the district on the condition of anonymity told The Hindu that the health workers do not visit the place regularly as there are no transport facilities and people also fear attacks by wild animals as the place is like a densely wooded and isolated forest. “The least the government can do here is build community toilets so that people do not suffer from water borne diseases that are caused because of open defecation,” he added.

  • Officials say village residents not coming forward to utilise government schemes

  • Residents say they approached officials several times, but in vain