20 March 2012
By Priyankka Deshpande
Civic body says nearly 1,300 public toilets in city, but PIL reveals more than 50% of these facilities remain inaccessible to vast majority of women by virtue of being located in various PMC buildings or slum areas instead of roads.
Various NGOs, social activists and several women have been crying hoarse about the scarcity of public toilets for women in the city, but PMC officials claim to have nearly 1,300 urinals for women within the jurisdiction of the civic body. Yet, it seems the statistics do not tell the full story, as facts dug out by an activist reveal a picture that is not very encouraging.
Health activist Chetan Gandhi had filed a public interest litigation to know the present status of public toilets in the city and the high court provided him with an affidavit that revealed some surprising figures. The affidavit mentions that the civic body has 603 and 229 public toilets in PMC's public buildings and at the community level respectively, 405 on pay–and–use basis and 62 on the roads in the city.
"There are only 62 women's toilets located on roads in the city. However, after the survey conducted three months ago with PMC officials, we have found that many of these toilets are in a bad condition," said Gandhi.
The community level toilets include locations in residential areas, slums and chawls and the remaining toilets are located in PMC public buildings, including government schools and colleges, hospitals and public parks along with all ward offices.
"It's inconsiderate to count the toilets placed in such areas that are not easily accessible to women. It's impractical for women to reach public parks or to enter slum areas or any ward office to use a public toilet. Therefore, in a way the PMC has played a trick with these women citizens by showing on documents that a huge number of women toilets exist in the city," Gandhi added.
Waste of funds
Gandhi also said that every year huge amount of money is kept aside for gender budget, but the civic body wastes it in cultural events for women or on projects like mother and child care instead of using it for the basic need of the women.
Gandhi said that in November, Deputy Municipal Commissioner Suresh Jagtap had called a meeting to gather information about development in respect to construction as well as maintenance of public toilets. However, according to Gandhi nothing concrete came out of that meeting.
"I had put forward the idea of moving toilets on an experimental basis and officials present there agreed. But no development has happened," Gandhi said.
Gandhi, members of an NGO and PMC officials visited public toilets in various areas of the city three months ago and found them in a pathetic condition.
"It's unfortunate to say that these officials, which include the health observers themselves, didn't have any idea of the exact location of these public urinals. After going to the spot, almost all the public toilets which we have located in the areas of Simla Office, BMCC Road and Prabhat Road were in a bad condition," Gandhi said.
Skirting the issue
Gandhi added that the officials avoided the matter when asked, saying that maintenance work was going on.
Read more: The Great PMC Loo Trick