Karnataka has miles to go for Open Defecation Free status

The challenges include water connections and land availability to construct toilets, besides the mindset of the people, slowing down progress towards the goal.

Published: 04th July 2022 06:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th July 2022 06:06 AM   |  A+A-


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Express News Service

Karnataka is among the top ten states in India, doing fairly well in various developmental parameters, but is yet to be free from open defecation. Despite claims that it has already achieved Open Defecation Free (ODF) status.

The challenges include water connections and land availability to construct toilets, besides the mindset of the people, slowing down progress towards the goal. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 launched the ODF Mission. In 2018, then chief minister HD Kumaraswamy declared Karnataka ODF.

But the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) released in December 2020 says only 22 per cent of households in rural areas have a flush toilet (using either piped water or water from a bucket for flushing), 17 per cent have a pit toilet or latrine, and 61 per cent have no toilet facility.

In urban areas, 47 per cent of households have a flush toilet and 34 per cent have a pit toilet or latrine. However, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) officials claim things have improved. RDPR Principal Secretary LK Ateeq told The New Indian Express there are several challenges in making the state ODF.

In some areas, there is an issue with land availability to construct individual toilets, especially with people residing in small, congested houses that lack space for toilets. In such places, people use community toilets, though they don’t prefer them.

"This is because of maintenance. Operation and maintenance is the challenge for community toilets. If there is a sense of belonging - like in individual house toilets – people will take care of them," says Ateeq, adding that in Karnataka, the North East districts (Kalyan Karnataka) are lagging behind.

According to Ateeq, where toilets are constructed, usage is 90 per cent. "As per our assessment, men of the family still prefer to go out, while women and children use the toilets at home as well as community toilets. This is the habit they follow. We are holding awareness programmes at the panchayat level," he says.

Lack of water connections is an issue in a few places, and under the Jal Jeevan Mission, the state government is making efforts to provide water at doorsteps. As per the latest estimation, at least 1.5 lakh toilets are needed, though the number is higher, he points out.

During his visit to Germany recently, the PM said every village in India is now ODF. Team The New Indian Express brings the update from across the State. Although many districts claim to have achieved ODF status, challenges continue to crop up.


Udupi was declared an ODF district in 2017. Although authorities have made efforts to rid the district from open defecation, there is still the problem of families not having toilets. In Shanthi Nagara, in 80 Badagubettu Gram Panchayat of Udupi district, at least four families of migrant workers have settled here in small rented houses.

The owner of the houses has not built toilets for the occupants, and without this basic amenity, families stay here for the low rent 'offered' and are forced to defecate in the open. In another case, an elderly couple in Janatha Colony of Siddapur, in Kundapur taluk, has no proper house.

Social worker Ramesh Kotian told The New Indian Express that many Scheduled Caste families still have no toilets in the district, and the district administration should assess the ground situation properly and provide toilets. Efforts are being made by the district administration to bu­ild toilets. In 2021- 22, 1,090 toilets were built un­der Swachh Bharat Mis­sion (rural).


While the government tagged Belagavi an ODF district in 2019, social workers and villagers across the district allege that the government’s announcement is not true, as several people still go into fields or jungles or banks of rivers or nalas to attend nature’s call.

In 2018, the Belagavi City Corporation, at its general body meeting, passed a resolution that Belagavi is an ODF city. The resolution was opposed by many, including social workers, who said it was untrue.

There are many areas where open defecation continues even today in Belagavi city/district, says Rahul Patil, noted social worker who is involved in welfare activities for poor rural communities. He helps them with jobs under the MGNREGA and ensures that needy students are educated through donations. 


Zilla Panchayat Chief Executive Officer Dr Kumar says Dakshina Kannada was declared an ODF district in 2016-17.

"The first aspect is to ensure there are individual toilets in individual houses. All households have individual toilets in our district. Under Swachh Bharat Mission, we are giving incentives up to Rs 17,000 to construct toilets. Our gram panchayat members have been visiting each house in their limits and convincing people to build toilets. We have also been declared an ODF Plus district, which is to install solid waste management units and dispose of waste scientifically," he says.


Hassan was declared an ODF district in 2017. Urban and rural bodies have constructed individual and family toilets with retrofitted pits for each family toilet. Awareness has been, and continues to be created about using toilets to lead a disease-free life, and Rs 12,000-Rs 15,000 is released for construction of individual and family toilets for SC and ST households.

According to Kantaraj, Zilla Panchayat CEO, the government declared Hassan ODF after constructing family and individual toilets for 3,65,000 rural families. The government released Rs 1,210 crore for 267 gram panchayats under Swachh Bharat Mission for open defecation-free programme and waste management. However, the latter is yet to be achieved.


Kalaburagi was declared an ODF district in 2018, as it reached the target of construction of toilets in rural areas as per the baseline survey conducted in 2012. Identification of houses not having toilets, which were left out in the baseline survey, was taken up and a fresh target of constructing 52,438 toilets was fixed in 2020-21.

Of them, construction of 48,218 toilets has been completed. A fresh target of 12,000 toilets was given in 2021-22. Of these, 7,647 toilets have been constructed so far. Considering this, rural folk are using toilets in their houses for defecation, the ZP claims.

President of Karnataka Prantha Raitha sangha Sharanabasappa Mamashetty counters this claim, and says that bus and train travellers can see rural folk, including women, going into the fields in the morning hours carrying small pots or bottles.

Former Taluk Panchayat member Praveen Muchetti says of about newly constructed 55,000 toilets in the district, at least 40,000 toilets are in use at least during the nights.

Womenfolk use the toilets at night to avoid going to the fields, Muchetti says. The government should spread awareness among rural folk on the importance of  toilets in houses and increase subsidies, and also not harass people while disbursing the subsidy amount, he adds.


ODF coverage in Kolar is far from 100 per cent for various reasons, although a majority of houses have been covered - the interesting reason being that newly constructed houses do not have individual toilet facilities although they are given community toilets, said a senior official, preferring to remain anonymous.

He says more attention is being paid to community toilets by providing water facility, light and cleanliness. However, the focus needs to be meeting the target of 100 per cent over the next few months.


While Chikkaballapur has seen almost 100 per cent ODF coverage, about 290 houses situated in rocky areas use shared toilets. The issue is already before the government, says Chikkaballapur Zilla Panchayat Chief Executive Officer Shiva Shankar. He says it is difficult to draw pipelines through rocky areas in Chikkaballapur, Gauribidanur and Gudibande taluks. 


Mysuru was declared the first ODF city in the million-plus population category, in a survey of 73 cities by the Quality Council of India. Though this was celebrated in a big way, along with the cleanest city tag which the city bagged, the City of Palaces and Mysuru district in general continues to see the practice of open defecation.

This is not confined to rural pockets, but is also prevalent in urban areas, especially Mysuru South and outskirts near Sathagalli, Kesare. Officials are making field visits to discourage people from defecating in the open.

"The problem lies not only in the minds of people, issues like water supply in rural pockets, unnecessary investment on e-toilets which are not functioning now, all contribute to failure in retaining the status of ODF city or district," points out social activist Santosh V.

(Inputs from Prakash Samaga in Udupi, Divya Cutinho in Mangaluru, Uday Kumar BR in Hassan, Ramakrishna Badseshi in Kalaburagi, V Velayudham in Kolar and Chikkaballapura and Karthik KK in Mysuru)


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