Twelve days after a 17-year-old boy was beaten up, allegedly for defecating in a field in northwest Delhi’s Jahangirpuri, Delhi Police have registered a case against the accused. The boy, who fractured his left hand, is on bedrest. While violence over open defecation may be rare, the issue has become a pressing concern in the area, with people who live in jhuggis saying that public toilets are absolutely unusable. In G and H blocks of Jahangirpuri’s ward number 16, there are four toilet complexes with 12 bathrooms each — six for men and six for women. These four complexes are meant to be used by more than 10,000 households.
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The toilets come under North Delhi Municipal Corporation. At the entrance of G Block, where the boy stays, residents point to a dilapidated building which has been the public toilet for the last few years. The caretaker, Ramesh Kumar, says the NDMC recently wrote on the wall outside it, telling residents to avoid going inside as the structure could collapse. The message, in Hindi, states, “This toilet is dangerous, please don’t use it. By order of NDMC.”
Kumar says that the notice does little to deter people, who have nowhere else to relieve themselves. “We are risking our life when we enter the toilet as it can come down at any moment. Men can manage anywhere, but women face sexual harassment if they go in the open,” said Kumar.
Inside the toilet, one side of the sewerage is blocked with faeces. The ground floor is for women and one above for men. Each floor has six toilets — all of them filthy.
Kumar, who volunteers for this job, says that two weeks ago, the sewage system was blocked. But despite informing the authorities, nothing was fixed. He claims he collected the money himself and managed to clean the blockage.
Omwati, a resident in her 50s, said, “Those seven days when we were not allowed to go inside the toilet, we had to manage in the open across the main road. We managed, somehow.”
About 500 metres away, on Dhobi Ghat Marg, another public toilet is in the same state, its floor covered with faeces. Caretaker Amarnath, an NDMC employee, said that there is no water supply inside the toilets. “We have told several officers about the condition, but no one has paid heed to it. Around 300 people use the toilets daily, and it is not possible to clean every time,” he said. Two other public toilets nearby tell a similar story, with caretakers saying they don’t even have enough cleaning material to use.
Parma Bhai Solanki, councillor of ward number 16, meanwhile said a warning was written outside the G block toilet complex because the structure could fall anytime.
“I have taken up the issue with the Nirman Samiti of the corporation and will expedite the process once I am back,” he said.
Pravesh Wahi, Standing Committee chairman of the NCMC, said he was not aware of the toilet being in dilapidated condition. He said he will look into the matter. Local AAP MLA Pawan Sharma was unreachable for a comment.