Lack of money is one thing, but there are other problems too

How to get villagers to build toilets a story from Karnataka
news Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 08:15

Five years ago, Shetty Gondana Halli in Karnataka’s Tumakuru district had just eight toilets for 1,243 houses. But since then the number of toilets has increased to 400, thanks to the efforts of one woman.

A native of Bantwal town in Dakshina Kannada district, 30-year-old Bhavya Rani first came to the village in 2009 to attend a wedding.

“I had heard that a man had died of cholera and that the villagers often encountered diseases because of unhygienic conditions,” she said. By next year, she had moved to the tiny village. Before she knew it, she had spent one and half years explaining to people the importance of having a toilet.

Bhavya claims that lack of an ambassador for Swachha Bharat for Karnataka has also affected the awareness levels among people. In the last decade in Karnataka, the state government has been different from the ruling party at the centre. When the Congress-led UPA was at the centre, the ruling BJP in the state did little to promote the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, which was perceived as associated with the Congress. Now, too, same attitude prevails with the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan, she says.

“The government must realize there must be some kind of inspiration for the people. They shouldn’t be bothered that it might look like they are supporting an opposition party’s scheme. These differences between central and the state governments and political parties are really affecting benefits that reach the people who need it,” she adds.“Be it Swachh Bharat Abhiyan of the BJP or the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan of the Congress, it is not just that the schemes that are poorly structured,” she says, adding that the problem also lies in not introducing the schemes properly to the villagers.

“To explain the scheme properly, people must understand the issues that villagers face. While most times it is poverty, it could also be a lack of space and water scarcity,” says Bhavya, who has also seen a similar situation in north Karnataka.  

But she too learned to listen to what the villagers had to say. Extended conversations with villagers has taught her that it wasn’t only the women who find it dangerous to defecate outside in the fields. “Many old people, whose children have moved to cities for work, find it difficult to walk 1-2 km to the fields,” Bhavya says.

Bhavya claims that has spent around Rs 3 lakh from her own money to help villagers pay for the expenses of constructing a toilet. Up to 2012, the cost of building one toilet was about Rs 6,000, but the government funds that reach after much hassle, was only Rs 4,000, she said.

“People don’t understand that Rs 2,000 is a one-time investment and that it would save them from many other problems,” said Bhavya, who is currently setting up her own NGO called Shine India, which would work on rural development with a special focus on water and sanitation in Karnataka.

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