Sanitation grave concern in State, says Jairam

Sanitation grave concern in State, says Jairam

'Make Karnataka open defecation-free by 2018'

Sanitation grave concern in State, says Jairam

Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Friday expressed disappointment over the poor condition of sanitation in the State and set 2018 as the deadline for the Karnataka government to make state free of open defecation.

Briefing reporters after holding a review meeting of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) Department here, he said only five per cent of gram panchayats in the State are open defecation-free. These panchayats are mainly in Dakshina Kannada district. “Sanitation is an area of grave concern in Karnataka. If this continues, it will have major implication for the health of people, especially women,” he warned.

He said the neighbouring Kerala, for example, has become urban defecation-free. Similarly, one-third of Maharashtra has become open defecation-free.

“Sanitation should get top-most priority in Karnataka. I have told the Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah, to make the State free of open defecation by 2018,” he added.

Though a large number of toilets have been constructed in rural areas in the last 20 years, people are not using them. Instead, these toilets in many cases are being used as godowns and garbage depots. There is a need to change the attitude of people and encourage them to use toilets, he said.

The Union Minister was also not happy with the progress made under Centre-funded Indira Awas Yojana, National Rural Livelihood Mission and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the last four years.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has found that funds under MGNREGA have been misused. Besides, the then government failed to utilise the available money, he said.

In 2011-12, the government spent Rs 1,640 crore under MGNREGA and it came down to Rs 1,440 crore in 2012-13. About Rs 1,000 crore remained unspent in 2012-13. There are many lapses in implementation of the Act in the State, Ramesh alleged.

He, however, said the Centre will be releasing Rs 2,133 crores for Karnataka under the Act for this year and announced the release of Rs 774 crores as first instalment. “Money has been released hoping that the new government will effectively implement the Act. Let me make it very clear that I will not hesitate to stop the funds if it is not spent properly,” he warned. The Centre had refused to release funds last year, saying that Rs 400 crore was pending to be spent under the Act.

The amount actually got stuck at the gram panchayats level and efforts are being made to get it back. And, interestingly, the Centre has now released the funds though the money released in the past continues to remain unspent.

Asked what action the Centre would take on the alleged misuse of funds under the Act, Ramesh said it is the responsibility of the State government to look into the allegations and take appropriate actions.

He said the Centre has decided to extend loan to women self-help groups at four per cent interest from 2013-14 on timely repayment of previous year’s loan.