MODAKU HOSAHALLI (KARNATAKA): “Every morning, before sunrise, we head out to the fields to answer nature’s call. Women and girls like me go with pots of water. Even if we are unwell, we are not allowed to use our neighbours’ toilets. We don’t even go to their houses because we belong to a lower caste,” said Amrutha (name changed), a young girl from Modaku Hosahalli, Nandi gram panchayat, Chikkaballapur district in Karnataka.
Gandhi had said “sanitation is more important than political independence”, but while the nation celebrated his 150th birth anniversary earlier this week, many houses in this village do not have toilets. Unfortunately, nothing has changed here in terms of untouchability either.
Modaku Hosahalli, also known as Gandhipura, is a small village near Nandi Hills. When Gandhi was ailing with high blood pressure, he was advised to rest at any hilly region and he chose Nandi Hills. In 1936, when Gandhi lived at Nandi Hills for 50 days and he would often visit Modaku Hosahalli.
As part of his harijan campaign, he would visit this village, eat and spend nights interacting with people. The village today has close to 60 houses and most of them are without toilets. Roads too are hardly motorable here. There is one government school with classes only till Standard IV.
Under Swachh Bharath Mission, Rs 15,000 has been allotted for every toilet, the funds of which have been shared by the state and the Central governments.
In the absence of a proper drainage system, pit latrines have been set up in some places. These are toilets made of cement rings that are inserted underground and the sanitary sludge is cleaned once in two or three months using tankers. Many of these cement rings are, however, unused. While some villagers use it to dry their clothes, others use it as dustbins. In some homes, kids play in them.
Poojappa (64), his wife, son and daughter-in-law goes to an empty plot, some 1 km away from their house, to relieve themselves. “We were asked to get a bank loan to avail the cement rings that are used for sanitary pits. We were told that the amount will be reimbursed. But we do not have the money to invest in the first place. And we do not want to run from pillar to post to get reimbursed,” Poojappa added.
Akash, who lives with his brother and parents, also defecates in the open. “It is only a 10-minute walk. We fill water in pots and go to the field,” he said. What happens if it rains? “We take an umbrella,” he said.
Roopa, a housewife, said, “Ours is a family of five and we have a small house. Where is the space to construct a toilet? We only spend 10 minutes to attend nature’s call. Why do we need a toilet for that?”
Only some people in the village have toilets. Sumithra, who came to the village nine years ago, said they constructed a toilet only two years ago. “My mother-in-law and I used to walk to the open field. Thankfully, there is no need to do that now,” she said.
During the summer of 1927, as his khadi campaign was in Mysuru, Gandhi chose to stay at Nandi Hills. From Yeshwanthpur railway station, he was taken to Sulthanpete in a palanquin, and from there, to Nandi Hills. In 1936, Gandhi was attending an event in Chennai when his blood pressure shot up. He came back to Nandi Hills to rest. This time, he walked for almost three hours from Sulthanpete.