Only four Gram Panchayats out of 33 in Muddebihal have over 50 per cent of households with toilets.
Karnataka was declared as the 26th state to become Open Defecation Free (ODF) in 2018. However, in Muddebihal — a taluk in Karnataka’s Vijayapura district — remains ODF only on paper.
Numerous villagers in the taluk wake up before sunrise and go out to find a place in and around the village to defecate in the open. Villagers have cited a lack of water, drainage problem, and the small size of the house as the main reasons for open defecation to persist.
Parvati Lingdaale, a resident of Kuntoji village says, “There are two problems in the village. One is the shortage of water, and the other is the lack of a proper drainage system. If we construct a toilet and start defecating in it, how will clean it? Where will the faecal matter go? It will start smelling.”
In addition to this, few villagers believe that faecal matter makes the house impure. Malamma, another resident of Kuntoji says, “We worship God in our house every day. If we construct a toilet, we will not be able to worship peacefully. Also, the toilets are unclean, and an unclean toilet brings impurity to the house.”
The data presented by the Swacch Bharat Mission Gramin’s Karnataka (SBMG-K) website says that out of 33 Gram Panchayats (GP) in Muddebihal, there are only four GPs in which over 50 per cent of households have constructed toilets.
On asking about the process of giving Muddebihal the ODF status, Mr. Jagadish, Assistant Director, SBMG-K, says, “The government of India in 2012-13 had conducted a survey, which identified that there 45 lacks households in Karnataka without toilets. By 2018, toilets were constructed in all those households and ODF status was given. However, the toilets that were constructed post the survey were not taken into account.”
On water scarcity Srikant Shivpure, Executive Officer, Muddebihal Taluk Panchayat, said, “In Muddebihal multi villages scheme is going on. That scheme will provide water to six to seven villages upon completion.”
Shivpure added “Govt. is coming up with another scheme ‘Nobody Left Behind’ (NOLB). In this scheme, numerous officials ranging from Nodal officers to Panchayat Development Officers (PDO) will be involved in constructing toilets and persuading the villagers to use those toilets.”
In places where there is water scarcity ecological sanitation (ECO-SAN) toilets are constructed. They don’t require water to be cleansed. The toilets convert the human excreta into manure in the period of six months to one year which is used for agricultural purposes.
Mr. Elango, Executive Director, Gramalaya said, “Wherever water scarcity and waterlogging exists. It’s better to go with ECO-SAN toilets. After six months when you back to the backside of the toilet, you can collect the faecal matter as manure.”
However, Elango pointed out that villagers don’t want to take collect that manure, and they don’t consider it pure and see it as faecal matter. He said “changing the mindset is very difficult.” Elango asked the government to emphasize on changing mindsets. “Govt. spends a lot of money in constructing toilets (the hardware), but they don’t work towards changing mindsets (the software).”
Changing the mindsets of villagers is a major challenge. It remains to be seen when will Muddebihal truly become Open defecation free.