‘100 Cr Allocated For Govt School Toilet Upkeep After My Petition’

The Karnataka government has allocated a separate budget to upgrade toilets and provide water connections in them.

My Report
3 min read

Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Video Producer: Aastha Gulati

On 12 March, I visited a government school in central Bengaluru and found broken doors and blocked toilets in the toilet building.

In Karnataka, there are approximately 49,000 government schools. In most of these schools, the conditions are similar, because while they have toilet buildings, maintenance is very poor as there aren’t any sufficient funds or cleaning staff/cleaning material.

I have surveyed over 300 schools in the state, and so that sanitation is improved and toilets maintained, I started a petition on Change.org for the Karnataka government to allocated separate funds for toilet maintenance and water connections in government schools.

On 8 March, this petition bore fruit, as the chief minister of Karnataka, in his budget speech, allocated Rs 100 crore to be spent across two years for the maintenance of toilets and water connections in them.

This kind of impact after years of hard work as a sanitation activist was no small feat. Especially, since initially, the response to the petition was negative and people did not understand the reason behind it.

Having studied in a government school myself, I know that sanitation is of utmost importance. Students in rural areas are having to defecate in the open because toilets are not cleaned or maintained.

The absence of toilets results in a high drop out ratio among girls, especially those in the 11-13 age group, the age of puberty. The need for a clean, hygienic bathroom is crucial at this stage.

Allocations per school range from Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000, based on type of school and strength of students for overall maintenance. This is a meagre sum for painting, electricity, printing, internet charge, repairs, and toilet maintenance. I had been tweeting regularly regarding this. On 11 November 2020, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, S Suresh, wrote back saying he will look into the matter.

‘100 Cr Allocated For Govt School Toilet Upkeep After My Petition’
(Photo: Screengrab)

While I am very grateful that a budget has been allocated for maintenance, I hope that it is used for the purpose it is intended for. The money should not be used for construction as toilet buildings exist already. The problem is of keeping them in functional state.

For this purpose, on 12 March, I met LK Atheeq, Principal Secretary of the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department, and we discussed how to take this forward.

We came up with the idea that a committee can be formed at the ground level with the support of the elected gram panchayat. There are about 5,000-6,000 gram panchayats in Karnataka.

We can have a committee, including the gram panchayat president, school headmaster/mistress, children, and an SDMC member, that will ensure there is teaching on how to use the toilet, behavioural change for students, as well as regular maintenance. Panchayati Raj institutions will be accountable for managing this.

I feel this is a necessity and we need to question why there is a lack in sanitation levels in government schools. Sanitation is our right and we need to ensure it.

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