Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala: Last year in November, Kerala was declared open defecation free by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. It was the third state in India to be credited with this title.
A reality check at one of the villages in the state, however, has put a question mark on its newly acquired status.
In Pulluvila, one of the most populous villages in the state’s capital Thiruvananthapuram, over 1,000 families are forced to defecate in the open due to lack of toilets.
“The community toilets – for which we pay Rs 2 every time before we use – are shut down by 6 pm. After this, the only option we have is to defecate on the beach,” said 48-year-old Shiloma A.
She said that during day, they have to walk for 750 metres to reach a toilet and in the night they defecate in the open. “If we get a toilet, of course we will use it,” she said.
Kumar Franklin, a member of the block panchayat, said that he fails to understand the logic behind the Kerala being declared open defecation free. “At least 1,000 families in this panchayat have no toilet facility. We need several community toilets,” he said.
With only one septic tank in the village which is overflowing, the families that have personal toilets in the village are also not able to use it. Several petitions have been filed in this matter but to no avail.
Open defecation and lack of waste disposal systems have led to two deaths within ten months in the village. In both cases, a pack of stray dogs attacked them while they were defecating in the open.
CV Joy, Operations Director for Suchitwa Mission said that while money is not a problem in coastal and tribal areas, it is the lack of land in the houses that has led to this problem.
“We are trying to build community toilets through the panchayat because the existing ones shut down by evening,” he said.