BMC commissioner Sitaram Kunte might not want to open every Diwali greeting card that comes his way this month. Because, oblivious to him and his team of deputy commissioners, a photography campaign has taken shape across the city, wherein Mumbaikars have begun taking pictures of unclean, deserted, broken and dilapidated public loos, and tagging them to Google Maps.
Initiated by 12 activists of the movement Right to Pee (RTP), the project looks to citizen uploading and tagging as many unclean toilets in the city on Google Maps. The RTP originally worked for free and safe sanitary and public urinals for women.
The selected images will then be bunched into greeting cards and sent to the office of the civic officials, with the first card, not enviably, marked to Kunte. “We are using the pictures on the cards and sending it to the commissioner, assistant commissioners and all the officials from the solid waste management (SWM) department of the BMC. This is the only way to embarrass the officials and get our message across,” said Supriya Sonar, convenor of the campaign. The group members state that its been more than a year, where activists have been trying to get the civic officials to increase, maintain and secure the number of clean toilets but the civic body has taken no concrete steps.
To upload a picture, people will have to search for a nearby landmark on Google Maps and add a review along with the picture, says Sonar.
With the pictures already coming in, the team, over the weekend, were deciding the message to be sent along with the greeting cards. One of their options include “duragandhyukt , asvach, asurkshit shauchalya apaki diwali shubh kare. Wish you a happy Diwali.” (May smelly, unclean unprotected toilets enhance the festival of Diwali). The common ire was not lost in their lines. Another line being penned in a bunch of cards is “Bharat mein shauchalayo ki is avashtha ko dekhakate hue bhi aap aap ki diwali shubh aur ushah se bhari manayenge yahi apeksha hai. Diwali ki hardik shubhkamnaye.” (Even after looking at the state of toilets in the country, we are sure that you will celebrate the festival of Diwali with the same enthusiasm. Wish you a Happy Diwali.)
Along with the greeting cards, the team will also present an analytical report of the database they get through Google Maps. “Our team has been visiting public toilets but it is difficult for us to cover the entire city because there are close to 2,600 public toilets. This is the only way we can involve people in the campaign,” Sonar added.
The commissioner had recently made a committee consisting of five civic officials and five Right to pee activists to create a road map of the existing toilets in the city for their improvement. “The committee has been holding meetings regularly and we have also started our work on improving the condition of public toilets,” said a senior civic official from the SWM department. Although members of RTP say they were token meets, with not much action initated. The issue of unclean and inaccessible toilets, a common grouse among citzens, had also found mention in the PM’s Independence Day Speech this year, indicating it’s priority among the initiatives the central government is expected to shape. As of May 2012, for the 1.3 crore residents of Mumbai, there were only 10,381 toilet seats, 2,849 urinals and 842 bathrooms.