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

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times City - Vibha Sharma & Paras Singh

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.

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