‘Open Defecation Free’ state? Not quite.

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Published on September 9, 2019 by

Belur Ambedkar Nagar Colony residents lack basic sanitation facilities. They defecate in the open due to the unavailability of personal or community toilets.

Karnataka Slum Development Board (KSDB) declared Ambedkar Nagar Colony, Bellandur a slum in the year 2009. Ten years on residents of Ambedkar Nagar Colony are still forced to defecate in the open.
Once an area is declared a slum, the Slum Board is liable to provide basic amenities including community bathrooms.

Meena Amma, a slum resident said, “We face a lot of hygiene issues, as we do not have personal or community toilets here. We go near the lake-side or the bushes to defecate. It is very uncomfortable; especially for women and girls to defecate in the open.”

Slum-dwellers have somehow managed to build three ‘workable bathrooms’ without any funds from the Slum board. The bathrooms are in an inappropriate condition. They are built using crummy tin sheds and bed-sheets. Residents bathe and wash utensils in it.

However,Ms. Bhagya Lakshmi, Anganwadi School teacher mentioned that Mr Muruthi, Secretary to the MLA, Bellandur, started the construction of toilets in the year 2011. The construction work was left incomplete, as he passed away the same year.

She also said, “I am staying in this slum for 16 years. Only four out of; so many houses have personal toilets including mine. Mr Muruthi had started building toilets in the year 2011, but the project halted as he passed away. We complained several times to the corporators and MLAs during their election campaigns. They make promises, and all goes in vain. We request the Slum Board to please complete the unfinished task and grant us our basic sanitation amenities.”

The Karnataka Slum Development Board (KSDB) Assistant Executive Engineer Mr Chandrappa said, “The board has provided temporary sanitation facilities to the slum. We have received no complaints so far.” He added that he was new to the post and could not comment about any concerns before his tenure.

The officer also added, “We have issued a notice of eviction to the slum to shift to Marathahalli accommodation. Ninety three members have refused to move and managed a stay order from the High Court. Therefore, this slum comes under disputed land; hence; we cannot undertake any construction work.”

Even though Ambedkar Nagar Colony slum currently stands disputed; in consonance with ‘Right to Health’ under Article 21, the authorities are liable to provide dwellers with temporary sanitation facilities.

Mr P. Lakshapati founder and Executive Director of Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA), an NGO (that works for slum outreach) said, “Once the Slum Clearance Board declares the slum, it must provide basic amenities like sanitation, street lights, water supply etc. The board is assigned adequate funds to build infrastructure. Conceding that the board claims the slum has toilets, it means that it has happened only on paper.”

The 93 residents who have received a stay order from the High court have requested the Slum Board to provide basic sanitation amenities. Even though the area is disputed, dwellers may file a writ petition in the High court to ratify their fundamental rights of basic hygiene, sanitation and health.

Karnataka was declared ‘Open Defecation Free’ on Nov 19 2018 by former Karnataka CM Mr H D Kumaraswamy. However, the problem still exists.

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