Toilets in India: India losing the battle

The South and East Delhi municipal corporations declared their wards open defecation free (ODF) on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2, also the third anniversary of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. However, with construction of toilets under the campaign yet to be complete, open defecation continues in many areas.

A senior South corporation official said construction of over 40 toilets is yet to be complete, while sources in East body said they have to construct about 70 more toilets. People also blamed lack of maintenance, erratic water supply, lack of 24-hour facility and long queues, forcing them to relieve in the open or on the banks of the Yamuna and Hindon.

According to parameters of the Swachh Bharat Mission, any urban local body can declare its wards ODF if there is provision for toilets within 500 metres of slum settlements and one toilet each in the commercial area within a distance of 1km. South corporation had targeted to build 393 community toilets under its jurisdiction, 560 public toilets and 25 mobile toilets. Similarly, the East had to achieve the target of 87 community toilets and 395 public toilets.

Under construction toilets, long wait time

Geeta Yadav, 52, lives with her grandson in a jhuggi on Road number 8 in Andrews Gunj. She is among the lucky 10 per cent people in the jhuggi who have a temporary toilet in her backyard. “For 2,000 people, there is just one toilet that can accommodate about 20 people at a time. As a result, there is a long queue every morning. To avoid this, many people prefer to go in the open,” she said. The South corporation has built a new toilet block in the area but is yet to be inaugurated. Congress leader in the South body Abhishek Dutt said, “The corporation was in a hurry to earn open defecation tag so they declared the areas under it ODF free without even ensuring completion of construction of all toilets.” South Delhi Mayor Kamaljeet Shehrawat said, “Yes, there are about 40 toilets that are yet to be constructed but that is because we were dependent on other government agencies for land. The delay is also because some people objected to constructing toilets near their homes.” BJP councillor from Malviya Nagar Nandini Sharma said on Tuesday that SDMC has built mobile toilets in Kumahar Basti in her area but since it is not connected to a sewer, it is yet to become functional.

Dirty toilets, no 24-hour facility

Sambhu Mahto, 35, runs a family of five with his monthly income of Rs 8,000. He spends Rs 1,500 on medicine of her daughter who is paralyzed and equal amount on rent. “We pay more than Rs 500 a month for using toilets, which is a big amount. And all we get are dirty toilets. People here defecate on the banks of the Yamuna to avoid the dirty toilets.” People living in Kalyanpuri and Safeda village slums said the toilets in the area buit by DUSIB are not properly maintained and are “so dirty that some people prefer to defecate in the open”. Asha Devi, 65, who lives in a Jhuggi in Kalyanpuri, said, “There are two toilets in the area with a combined capacity of more than 120 people, which is enough if these are maintained properly. But they clean it only twice a week. But it is not just their fault. People do not even flush the toilets after using them.” Residents of Kalyanpuri and Safeda jhuggi near Geeta Colony said if they defecate in the open, police pull them up, while using the dirty toilets could invite diseases. East corporation Mayor Neema Bhagat said the civic bodies have put up mobile toilets in areas where toilets have not been built. “We have placed more than 30 mobile toilets, especially near slums so that there is no open defecation,” she said.

Indian Express

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