Karnataka bypoll: What development? This Gundlupet town has no toilets
"We will manage without water but how can we do without a toilet? My daughter refuses to come home during holidays since there are no toilet facilities here. I hope you understand our problem as women," said a voter in Gundlupet. Rathnamma, much like other women in Hosuru town of Gundlupet assembly constituency is ready to vote in the April 9 bypoll but her only demand is for better sanitation facilities.
Karnataka minister U T Khader along with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's son Dr Yathindra visited the town to seek votes. The women there welcomed the duo with an 'aarti' but didn't speak a word on what they wanted. After the campaigning duo moved ahead, we got talking to the women on what their thoughts on voting were.
"All of the womenfolk in the village have to wait until dark or before sunrise to relieve themselves. There is just one designated open place with no walls or boundaries. Men walk by at other times and it is humiliating for us. Women go in groups because it is too dark to venture out alone," said Shanta who is in her mid-20s. We asked her why she did not raise the issue when the minister had walked past just a few minutes ago and she said that the men did not appreciate women speaking to political leaders.
"If I open my mouth now, my husband will pull me up later. I will be yelled at for speaking up in public in front of a politician who he supports. Why should I unnecessarily invite his wrath," she said. The women claim that nearby villages do not have the problem that they face. "Villages are better off than the town we live in. Village households get a subsidy to build toilets and sanitation pipes but the same is not being done in a town like ours. We only wish that the government sets up sanitation pipes and our men build a toilet for us," said an elderly woman.
Apart from the sanitation issue, the women there would like employment opportunities. "The drought has hit us hard. We are unable to grow anything in our land and are compelled to work in other people's fields. For those who are out of jobs due to the water scarcity, garments are an option but there are none in the town. We travel quite a distance to find jobs,' said another woman in her early 30s. While governments talk about development and digital India, many villages and towns like Hosuru are denied basic facilities of toilets. The issue is indeed an important one and needs urgent acknowledgement by elected representatives.