Public inconvenience: Toilet infra in a mess
Many New Complexes Locked Up, Others In Bad Shape Due To Lack Of Staff; Women Bear The Brunt
New Delhi: Almost a year has passed since a toilet complex constructed outside south Delhi’s Aya Nagar Shamshan Ghat was last used. The fate of two other loos in the area built under the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Mission a couple of years ago is as uncertain.
Close by, Rani Devi, a hawker who plies her trade outside Mangaldas Khel Parisar, says the popular venue for social and political events is still waiting for a toilet complex built last year to be fully functional. The men’s section has not been opened at all; the women’s toilets have no provision for light, the grilles have been removed and the windows remain open.
The problem is not restricted to Aya Nagar. With the next annual cycle of Swachh Survekshan about to be initiated, the public toilet system in the city lies in a shambles. Despite tall claims by the corporation and the government, operational problems remain.
Over the weekend, TOI visited various places like Aya Nagar, Jaunapur (south), Lajpat Nagar (south), Laxmi Nagar (east), Trilokpuri (east), Ganesh Nagar (east), Minto Road (central), New and Old Delhi railway stations, among others, to get a firsthand view of the situation. In most cases, even if you were lucky to find a toilet complex open, the tap was running dry. Guards or maintenance staff were tough to spot. Even the toilets located next to Civic Centre — the headquarters of north and south corporations — were in a mess.
When TOI visited the urinals on Minto Road, the women’s section was locked and maintain and guard these units. However, nothing has moved on the ground.
Fed up with the apathy, shopkeepers at Guru Nanak Market, Lajpat Nagar-IV, recently decided to engage their own sanitation staff. “The complex was constructed last year using SBM funds. Till last month, it had remained closed and visitors were urinating on the wall,” said Abhishek Dutt, the area councillor.
A senior SDMC official said the corporation had no funds to guard these places. “Till some time back, we were even finding it hard to get water connections from DJB. We had no choice but to keep these places closed to avoid misuse,” he said.
Outside Old and New Delhi railway stations, at least a dozen urinals were found to be in unhygienic condition. Many visitors could be seen relieving themselves in the open.
A senior Delhi Jal Board official said a review meeting took place between the secretary of ministry of urban affairs and DJB CEO recently. “It was decided that water connection will be provided to public toilets under category-1 domestic use as a public welfare measure. The policy was approved in June,” he said.
Further east, when TOI visited the popular Laxmi Nagar market on Vikas Marg, the story was no different. Neema Maheshwari, a student, complained that she had never seen the women’s toilet section open. “The area is a hub of coaching centres. This should be a top priority for the corporation,” she said. We found women toilets shut in several other nearby areas, including Ganesh Nagar, Shakarpur and Trilokpuri, too.
At Ganesh Nagar Chowk, a swanky new complex was yet to be used since its inauguration, locals complained. A senior corporation official said: “DJB had earlier refused to give us additional water. If the toilets are opened without making a provision for steady water supply, it will only lead to a mess. The Central Ground Water Commission’s ban has put paid to our plans of using borewells.”
Besides poor sanitation, absence of attendants has some other unintended consequences. In Trilokpuri, TOI found all fixtures, including sinks, taps and electrical fixtures, missing. In a recent survey, NGO Pinkishe found that 90% of women respondents were afraid to use public washrooms: 65.2% of them said the risk of urinary tract infection associated with dirty loos was a major concern; as many as 51.3% considered restrooms dirty, 40.8% saw them “less clean” and only 8% found them clean.
Jai Prakash, standing committee chairperson of north corporations, admitted that manpower requirements had not been taken into consideration while building new toilets. “We will soon hire a private agency to manage these additional toilets,” he said. He added that the corporation had decided against using an advertisement model as “while advertisers use the toilet façade to advertise and generate revenue, they don’t manage them”.
SDMC’s standing committee chairman Bhupender Gupta said a meeting with the south commissioner was planned to explore the possibility of roping in NGOs and RWAs for the upkeep of these toilet complexes.