Grama Vastavya toilet converted into pooja room!

Grama Vastavya toilet converted into pooja room!

Lavatory built for HDK's night stay rebuilt by the house owners

The bowl-shaped cement slab of his erstwhile toilet now lies in front of his house.
Shetty’s house in Badaganamole, Chamarajnagar district, would probably have never come under the spotlight, if the then chief minister H D Kumaraswamy had not chosen it for his night camp in May 2007. Local JD (S) leaders urgently constructed a lavatory in small vacant room of Shetty's tiny house, before HDK landed there.

It was built without the consent of the house owners; the family members, like their neighbours in the hamlet, are used to open-air defecation.

Kumaraswamy had arrived at Shetty's house at about 4 am on May 27, and slept there for a couple of hours. After his morning ablutions, he interacted with Shetty and his neighbours, and left the place. A cot, which was specially brought for HDK, was removed soon after his exit.

Then began the Shettys’ ordeal. They were ill at ease having a toilet in the house. They allowed the lavatory to be inside the house for two months, though they never used it. One fine day, Shetty and his teenage son Madesha took a crowbar and dug it up. They removed the cement bowl and put it outside.

Now, it is a pooja room; it has a wall covered with ceramic tiles, and adorned with a picture of Goddess Lakshmi. Empty vessels are also stored here.

Why don’t they want a toilet? Shetty’s wife Ratnamma says, “How can we have a toilet inside the house? We never asked for it. The construction quality was also poor.”

‘We don’t need one’

Fifty-five-year-old Shetty says, “My house is very small. Why do we need a toilet here? We are not used to having such things inside the house.” His son Madesha immediately adds,“There is no water supply in our area. What is the point in having a toilet where there is no water supply? We cannot carry water from outside to the toilet. We are comfortable with defecating in an open space.”

In what way did Shetty benefit from Kumaraswamy’s visit? The family says that all the CM’s men left in their house were just two mirrors and Rs 500 that HDK gave Ratnamma for cooking food.

Interestingly, the Shetty family is now isolated in Badaganamole hamlet, an hour’s drive from Chamarajnagar district headquarters. Why?

Shetty says, “The people of my community (Uppara, a backward community) are under the impression that we have received a huge amount of money from Kumaraswamy. People are jealous of us. Nobody wants to socialise with us.”

Shetty is averse to having a toilet in the house, even in future. But he recently bought a television set. His son Madesha owns a cell phone. The family extracts fibre from sisal (agave) plants to prepare ropes. On an average, they earn Rs 100 a day.

Self Help Groups to get loans

In the backward district of Chamarajnagar, hardly 15 to 20 pc of the population uses lavatories. Now, all banks in the district have collectively decided to extend loans to members of SHGs towards construction of toilets. It is a joint initiative by K L Vinay, Assistant General Manager, Nabard; Giridhar Karkala, Lead District Manager, SBM; Dheenabandhu trust, and a group of NGOs.

Each toilet, with a small water tank, will cost about Rs 7,000. The members of SHGs are eligible for the loan. Vinay said, “Community toilet is a big failure because there is no ownership as such. We are now encouraging house owners to build toilets. We have to sensitise them in this regard.”

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