HC Lavanya, a 13-year-old girl studying in Class 8 in Hemadal village of Karnataka’s Chitradurga district, went on a hunger strike on Tuesday morning to demand that the village administration should take charge of ensuring that every house in her village is equipped with a toilet.
She started the strike near the village bus terminal at around 11 am, with portraits of B R Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi overlooking the silent protest.
Picture for representation only. Source: Ctny – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia
Lavanya was protesting against the common habit of open defecation in the village because she feels that the practise is unhealthy, unsanitary and extremely dangerous because of wild animals. She was inspired to take up this non-violent form of protest after Malamma, a student living in Koppal district of Karnataka, went on a successful hunger strike demanding a toilet for her house.
“It was not only irritating, but also spoilt our village’s healthy atmosphere. I wondered why these people did not worry about their dignity. We have a toilet in our house and everyone in the house uses it. I wanted all villagers to have this facility,” Lavanya told The Times of India. A student of Government High School, Hemadal, she was supported by her parents.
According to reports, only 70 households in Hiriyur taluk have toilets and there are 315 families in all. Citing a recent incident where a woman in Tumkur was killed by a rogue elephant while she was relieving herself in the open, Lavanya said that she would have been alive if there had been a toilet at her place. She added that the incident prompted her to go on the strike to ensure that each family in the village has a toilet and that the taluk panchayat officers provide the required support.
The second day of her protest saw several villagers standing up to support her too. The incident caught attention of taluk panchayat officers and zila panchayat members, who then visited the village and assured her that toilets will be built. With this promise, Lavanya decided to withdraw the strike, but has announced that she will start again if toilets are not constructed soon.
Sridhar Barker who is the executive officer at the Hiriyur Taluk, visited the village upon hearing about Lavanya. He issued work orders for families without toilets, demanding that they should complete the construction work within a week. The village administration has extended financial support to families that need toilets. Families from the general category can avail a sum of Rs. 12, 000 and SC/ST families will be provided with Rs 15, 000.