13/10/2015 5:03 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Open Defecation In This Indian Village Can (Literally) Cost You Dearly

CHANDAN KHANNA via Getty Images
An Indian man urinates on a wall in New Delhi on November 18, 2014, the eve of World Toilet Day. UNICEF estimates that almost 594 million -- or nearly 50 percent of India's population -- defecate in the open, with the situation acute in dirt-poor rural areas. Some 300 million women and girls are forced to squat outside normally under the cover of darkness, exposed not only to the risks of disease and bacterial infection, but also harassment and assault by men. AFP PHOTO/Chandan KHANNA (Photo credit should read Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)

In Jambagi village in Karnataka's Belagavi district, you can get fined Rs 1,000 if found defecating in the open. And if you catch someone relieving themselves in a public place, you get Rs 500 reward for bringing them to book.

According to reports, the village panchayat (local elected council) passed an order on Gandhi Jayanti (2 October) to impose this penalty on defaulters. "Open defecation was turning out to be a nuisance as the approach roads to the village would stink," explained Suresh Munji, a local panchayat development officer, to Mint. "We no longer live in the primitive era where the concept of attached-toilets was unheard of. Now kids go to school and cleanliness is much appreciated. We counselled people against defecating on the roadside. Many were yet to come to terms with it. So we decided to impose penalty to make others fall in line of the Jambagi village council."

India's battle with open defecation and sanitation has captured the world's attention, with more than 590 million of its people forced to relieve themselves in public spaces. A joint report by WHO and UNICEF last year showed that India tops the list of those who defecate in the open, prompting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to promise to build toilets for every family in India. Lack of access to toilets has made Indians vulnerable to disease and death in the past.

ALSO READ: Open Defecation in India Leads to Rape and Disease. Now, Women Are Demanding Toilets.

According to Munji, their village has a persistent problem with open defecation, which had made it infamous in the district. Only about a third of the 368 families in the village have their own toilets. So, despite the panchayat order, people continued to relieve themselves in the open, and were reportedly let off with a warning till now.

However, now the period of leniency is over, and posters warning villagers against defecating in the open have been posted everywhere, according to Munji, and the panchayat has started making rounds even in the fields twice a day to ensure there are no defaulters.

It was another campaign in a neighbouring village that inspired the panchayat of Jambagi village. In nearby Koppal village, a four-member team constituted last year blows whistles for about half an hour twice a day to discourage people from defecating in the open. Villagers of Jambagi decided to take it a step forward.

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