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Almost 300 schools in state have no separate toilets

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Bengaluru: All government schools in Karnataka have separate toilets for girls and boys in the state. So claim senior officials from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). But statistics counter this. The 2014-15 annual report of the Unified District Information System of Education (UDISE) reveals that almost 300 schools in the state have no separate loos.

The UDISE report, on its website, says 227 schools in the state don’t have boys’ toilets and 63 don’t have separate loos for girls. And even where there are separate loos, they are simply not enough. For instance, the government municipal school in Lakshmeshwara, Gadag, has just one loo to cater to 500 girls. This prompted the aggrieved girls to shoot off a letter to the district child helpline.

“We have only one toilet for girls. There are times when students end up going to open areas on the campus to answer nature’s call and this has created an unhygienic environment in the school,” the girls wrote in their complaint. Worse, their school campus, about 55km north of Bengaluru, also houses a government PU college and an Urdu school.

While the girls’ embarrassment is understandable, it’s a plight shared by many school students across the state.

In March, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) launched the Swachh Vidyalaya Programme under the Swachh Bharat Mission by setting a target to the state governments to have separate boys’ and girls’ toilets in government schools within one year. But barely three months before the deadline ended, very little has been done.

DPI sources admit, in private, to lapses. They acknowledge that compared to the strength of students in some schools, the number of available toilet rooms are not sufficient. In some schools, the existing boys’ toilet has been hived off to create a girls’ toilet room.

And where there are toilets, they are either in a shabby state or shut. Raghunath Gowda Patil, an RTE activist, told TOI, “About 50% of the toilets in government schools of Gadag district are always locked up as as they are in a bad shape. We will soon give a memorandum to the education department to build new toilets or to renovate the existing ones.”

Nagasimha G Rao, convenor of RTE Task Force, said according to a survey of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), 20% of girls have stopped going schools due to bad toilets and lack of them. In some districts like Dharwad, Chamrajanagar and Gadag, where student strength is high, there is no proportionate number of toilets.

He also pointed out that as per RTE rules, every school should have disabled friendly toilets, but only a handful have them.

Govt schools and loos

Of 21,816 lower primary schools, 72 don’t have boys’ toilets and 22 don’t have girls’ toilets

Of 22,479 higher primary schools, 33 have no boys’ toilets and 5 have no girls’ toilets

Of 44,295 elementary schools, 105 don’t have boys’ toilets and 27 have no girls’ toilets

Of 4,614 secondary schools, 10 have no boys loos and 3 don’t have girls’ toilets.

Of 874 higher secondary schools, 7 don’t have boys toilets and 6 have no girls’ loos

Source: Unified District Information System of Education

Source: TOI-BGLR

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Her mission is to get more girls to the skateboard

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Bengaluru: Skateboarding would seem like the last place for the new wave of feminism to raise its voice but when 22-year-old Atita Verghese casually states “go to any skateboarding park in the world, you will barely see any girls practicing the sport”, you realize how gender politics sneaks in uneasily even in a game that’s considered the epitome of cool among the hipster brigade.

“I don’t see girls, my age or older, take up the sport. I am trying to figure out why and will do what I can to change the scene,” says Atita, who is about to embark on a road trip across the country to do just that.

Starting on December 27 at Kovalam, Kerala, Atita along with 12 other girl skateboarders will be touring Bengaluru, Anjuna in Goa and Panna in Madhya Pradesh, as part of Girl Skate Tour 2015.

On the self-funded trip, Atita and team will be conducting free skateboarding workshops for girls/women of all ages and build concrete skate ramps. Roni Tal, a skate yoga instructor from Israel, will be holding skate yoga workshops as well.

Elaborating more on what she has in store for Bengaluru, Atita says, “In Bengaluru, we will be holding a series of events for three days – from December 29 to December 31, at three different venues. We will be doing a free demo and free skateboarding workshop at the Play Arena skate park on Day One where we will show participants tricks and styles of skateboarding. The idea is to introduce girls to the sport and show them that irrespective of age or body type, it’s a sport they should try. Skateboarding is so much like life. The skills you gain, the knowledge and awareness of yourself and your external environment you acquire, are highly valuable in life, on and off the wheels.”

Besides workshops, on December 31, Atita and team will be building a concrete skate ramp at The Cave Skatepark in Hegdenagar. “In India, most skateboarding facilities including ramps are built by the skaters themselves. I shall be building a concrete ramp with an extension solely for girl skaters here,” says Atita, who loves nothing more than getting on her wheels because of the ‘sense of freedom’ she gets to experience.

While the scene for girl skaters may currently seem bleak in the country, the future of the sport holds promise, according to Atita who coaches kids at classes organized by Holystoked Collective.

“We have parents who enthusiastically sign their kids up for skateboarding. And interestingly there are quite a few girls who come for the classes. In my sessions especially, I have an equal number of boys and girl students, so I think the next generation of female skateboarders will have it easier,” says the youngster who took three months to chalk up the tour. Of course, bringing back focus on her mission to get more girls on board, she says, “Gender equality is important in sports and one way to ensure it is to include and encourage girls.”

Skate along with us

Catch Atita Verghese and team of girl skateboarders at the following venues in the city:

December 29: Play Arena Skatepark, Kasavanahalli

December 30: Vivekananda Metro Station, Old Madras Road

December 31: The Cave Skatepark, Hegdenagar

Source: TOI-BGLR

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Bengaluru may have to be evacuated in a decade if water crisis persists

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When a residential complex near Bellandur Junction recently drilled a borewell, they found water at a depth of 1,050 ft. “This is the sixth borewell we got drilled in 10 years. And we are not sure how long water would last in this one,” said Ajith Kaverappa, a resident of the complex that has 60 apartments.

Most of the apartment complexes that have come up recently in Bengaluru, especially on Sarjapur Road, Bellandur, Bannerghatta Road, Whitefield, Yelahanka and Marathahalli, depend on borewell. But since these wells often go dry up because of high consumption, the residents and management of the complexes have no other option but to drill new borewells or buy water from private suppliers.

Around 450km away, residents of Gadar village in Raichur, a backward district in north Karnataka, are facing a similar situation. Devendrappa, a 73-year-old farmer, got water at 30 feet below the ground when he first drilled a borewell in his field in the late 1980s. Recently, he had to dig to till 1,020 feet. He used to grow groundnut on 9 acres five years ago, but that has come down to 5 acres. “In another five years, I may not grow anything at all,” says a dejected Devendrappa. This is the story across Karnataka. Groundwater, a major resource in times of crisis, is dwindling. Increase n the number of borewells and the decline of groundwater levels have resulted in borewells sinking to the depths of 1,000 feet in several areas.

“The average annual rainfall in Karnataka is 1,248 mm. But the estimated 20 lakh borewells in the state draw almost three-and-a-half times of he amount (rainfall) received to recharge the groundwater. Hence, it’s no surprise that most borewells have gone deeper, even up to 1,000 feet, and the ones which aren’t as deep have run dry,” said a senior hydrologist with the state government.

“Water tables in urban areas are depleting due to increasing population and expansion of piped drinking water. And it is declining in rural areas because of the reduction in recharge areas as a result of lakes and ponds dying,” he added.

A study conducted by V Balasubramanian, former additional chief secretary of Karnataka, has sounded a warning bell for Bengaluru: If the current rate of groundwater utilisation continues, there will be a major crisis by 2025 when people may have to be evacuated.

The situation in Bengaluru’s immediate neighbourhood, including Bengaluru rural, Chikkaballapur, Tumakuru, Ramanagaram and Kolar, is scarier. Though the government had proposed a Rs 10,000-crore Yettinahole project to quench the thirst of people in these districts, the project got grounded due to protests and technical reasons. “Overexploitation of groundwater for decades and lack of remedial measures have been impacting the level of groundwater in these districts. If the Yettinahole project fails to see the light of day, people may be forced to migrate from these areas in 10 years,” some water experts say.

The state is also facing an increase in pollution of groundwater in many areas. The groundwater in about 12 of the 30 districts in Karnataka is highly polluted, a recent study by the department of mines and geology shows. “Groundwater is highly polluted with excess concentration of fluoride, arsenic, iron, nitrate and salinity due to both anthropogenic and geogenic factors, particularly in the districts of north Karnataka. The quality of water is deteriorating due to the mixing of sewerage through unlined open drains, leakage from cesspits and septic tanks, and contamination from industrial wastes,” the report said.

Water pollution caused by industries has significant impacted environmental resources. Karnataka, which is one of the top five industrialized states, generates about 6 lakh kilolitres of effluent and liquid wastes every day.

However, the Karnataka government has taken its sweet time waking up to the problem. In 2011, it brought in legislation to restrict digging of borewells and to make rooftop rain water harvesting systems in new constructions mandatory. But, it has had little impact as the laws were not properly implemented and the violations were ignored for various reasons.

Realising that the number of borewells in the state has increased beyond redemption, the government has now put in a regulatory mechanism, wherein only the deputy commissioners have the power to sanction drilling of borewells. But water experts say awareness is the need of the hour than just laws.

“Water conservation should be made a habit. Misuse, indiscriminate use, inefficient use and overuse of water, which we think is freely available, should be contained through rules. However, the government should make serious efforts to promote rainwater harvesting not just among urban residents but also farmers who should be encouraged to dig farm ponds to save water in the agriculture field. The government should also take steps to restore lakes, tanks and canals through NREGS,” said Mahendra S Kumar, a former hydrologist.

RAIN BRINGS RELIEF

The groundwater level has gone up in Kolar and Chikkaballapur for the first time in 15 years, thanks to the unexpected rainfall in September and November. Officials say the water level in these drought-prone districts increased by over a metre compared to last year. The groundwater level across Kolar and Chikkaballapur has gone up by an average 1,000 to 1,200ft. Even in Bengaluru city, the level has gone up by more than half a metre. The levels were low till August in many parts of the city, but in November and December, when the city received intermittent showers, the groundwater level rose steadily.

Source: TOI-BGLR

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