Express News Service
MODAKU HOSAHALLI (NANDI GRAM PANCHAYAT), CHIKKABALLAPURA: “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,” Amrutha (name changed), a young girl from this village, said.
Gandhi had said ‘sanitation is more important than political independence’, but while the nation is celebrating his 150th birth anniversary, many houses in this village of Modaku Hosahalli in Chikkaballapura 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 that teaches children only till Class 4. Under Swachha Bharath Mission, `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, however, are unused. While some villagers use it to dry their clothes, others use it as dustbins. In some houses, children have turned them into their play areas.
Poojappa (64), his wife, son and daughter-in-law use an empty plot, which is some 1km away from their house, as their toilet. “We were told 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,” he said.
Akash, who lives with his brother and parents, too defecates in the open. “It is only a 10-minute walk. We fill water in pots and go to the field,” he said. And what happens if it rains? “We take an umbrella with us,” he added. Roopa, a housewife, said, “Ours is a family of five members 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, 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.
Stories about Gandhi’s visit are still spoken about among the villagers here.
The youngsters recall what their elders narrated. Susheelamma, a farmer, said, “My mother-in-law would say that Gandhi used to eat raagi mudde and sambar and only vegetarian food at our house. He would also come here to drink goat milk.”
Gandhi’s stay at Nandi Hills:
During the summer of 1927, as his khadi campaign was in Mysuru, Gandhi chose to stay at Nandi Hills. He reached Yeshwanthpur railway station on April 20 and was taken to Sulthanpete (a small village near Nandi Hills) in a palanquin, from where he was taken to Nandi Hills. He left on June 5.
In 1936, Gandhi was attending an event in Chennai when his blood pressure shot up. He again came back to Nandi Hills to rest. This time, he did not take a palanquin but walked for almost three hours
from Sulthanpete. He stayed here for 50 days.