July 19, 2021 4:18:15 am
Why is the planned city’s public toilets in a dismal condition despite huge funds being spent on them every year?
Some are in a pathetic state while some were inaugurated with fanfare but left unusable for people. Broken toiletries, overflowing sewage water, no power — this is what smart city Chandigarh offers to its citizens.
Chandigarh was accorded Open Defecation Free (ODF) status first on September 27, 2016. Subsequently, the city was certified ODF++ on September 19, 2019. ODF certification is required to be done every year based upon a third party assessment involving independent inspection for open defecation and toilets at minimum 45 locations over four zones of the city.
A city can be notified/ declared as SBM ODF++ city if, at any point of the day, not a single person is found defecating or urinating in open, all community and public toilets are functional and well-maintained, and entire faecal sludge and sewage is safely managed and treated, with no discharging or dumping of untreated faecal sludge and sewage in drains, water bodies or open areas.
Moving a step further, the UT is now trying for SBM Water Plus Certification this year. SBM Water+ is a next level of certification beyond ODF++ and is also a precondition for a city to compete for 7-Star Garbage Free City Stat Rating in order to rank amongst top cleanest cities in Swachh Survekshan 2021.
However, the situation on the ground is not what is being shown on papers. Be it sectors 19 and 22, Manimajra, or other crowded markets, the condition of public toilets is so bad that people don’t even prefer to step in.
The public toilet in Sector 22, with broken and choked toiletries, is crying for attention of the civic body.
“The public toilet near Sector 22 Bijwara booth market has been in a neglected state for over a year. It has become a source of foul smell and is always found stinking. We never see any attendant manning this toilet. Also, we are always in the dark about the ghost contractor who is maintaining this public toilet,” said Jagjit Singh, president, Sector 22 Bijwara Market Welfare Association.
He added, “Market staff and nearby PG (paying guest) students are the worst sufferers. We have raised this issue with the area councillor a number of times. MC should immediately get this toilet renovated and make it fit for use. Our market association is ready to take up its upkeep subsequently under the MC’s existing policy.”
In Sector 22-D, both toilets for men and women were pulled down for renovation. As an alternative, a mobile toilet was placed in the area which in a few days gave further trouble to nearby residents. The area not just raised a stench but was overflowing with sewage water.
“The not-so- smart way of execution of work of refurbishment of public toilets of Sector 22 has put both residents and market staff in a hell-like situation in the absence of alternatives for any usable toilets for all genders. The situation is very bad in Sector 22-D market and residential areas. Last week, the contractor concerned demolished both the existing Sector 22-D market women and men toilets (for renovation) in one go, leaving no usable alternative facility for toilet users,” said Arvind Jain, president of Sector 22 Jewellers’ Market Association.
He said as an alternative during the intervening period of renovations, a mobile toilet was placed by the MC public health wing adjoining Sector 22 police post and block of houses at the back of the market.
“Due to wrong placement of this unmanned mobile toilet, just after a couple of days, the surrounding area started stinking with foul smell and overflowing sewage,” he said.
Female employees, especially from booth markets, are the worst sufferers as the so-called mobile toilet is always found stinking and is placed in full public view. At times, these female staff can be seen requesting showrooms’ and restaurants’ owners to allow them use of their private toilets.
“I am getting tens of calls from the neighbourhood residents and market users, requesting for a better option and relocation of mobile toilets to another nearby point as the current placement has virtually blocked the pedestrians’ passage to market and sector exit. Seems like there is a lack of supervision from MC side. Otherwise, these toilets could have been renovated one after the other without causing any inconvenience to users. MC should immediately relocate this mobile toilet,” said Vinod Vashisht, president, Government Houses Residents Welfare Society, Sector 22.
The Palika Bazar toilets too are in a mess. They not just raise a stench but are also unusable.
“Public toilets in the city seem to lack counter-supervision. I along with my wife often go to Sector 9 inner market. The toilet there is always badly stinking. My wife refuses to use it. She goes to a nearby friend’s house for using the toilet at times. The attendant of the toilet is not cordial with visitors and is often seen without wearing a mask. Also, Sector 19 market near Palika Bazaar and Sector 26 Sabzi Mandi have the worst toilets in Chandigarh,” said R S Gill, president, Sector 8 RWA.
The condition of public toilets at Panjab University Sector 14 market is bad too. Residents suggest that the civic body should ensure having automatic flushes to keep them neat and clean throughout the day.
Ravneet Kaur, founder, Nanaki Meharamat Foundation, Chandigarh, and Research Associate, PU, maintains that public toilets are the backbone of a strong health system of a country. “The condition of public or community toilets in the city is worse than we could ever imagine. The public toilets in the slum areas are just four walls with a door having a toilet seat with tap, no window for air to cross,” she said.
Kaur states scores of families living together and using only three-four makeshift toilets in Sector 52 Kajheri are suffering health problems. She adds, “Bapu Dham has dirty toilets. Dhanas has even dirtier environment. At the back of PGI, we have a slum without proper toilet construction. We cannot expect adequate health for women. They require a hygienic toilet on their special days and we are offering them a toilet jam-packed with fecal bacteria. Women face major problems like urinary tract infections and vaginal infections, and these toilets are a primary cause of these issues. I suggest we should introduce automatic flushes in the public and community toilets to keep them neat with proper soap dispensers and a daily check on these.”
Sectors 37, 38
Public toilets in sectors 37 and 38 lack proper lighting apart from basic amenities. Major D P Singh, chief advisor, Sector 38 RWA and former principal of a city government college, asserts that the city’s toilets need proper upkeep and maintenance.
“A number of public toilets in western sectors of the city are in a bad shape and require petty repairs and maintenance. The condition of public toilets in markets of Sector 38 is horrible. It needs immediate renovation. The toilet in the mini-market of Sector 38A is too not different as there is hardly any light inside,” he said.
He added, “In Sector 37, there are two toilets — the first one is not in a good condition and needs a big change, the second one is okay and people mostly use the new one.”
On many days, toilets in many markets are found locked. There are some areas which do not have toilets as well.
“In January last year, a newly developed green belt in Indira Colony, Manimajra was inaugurated and dedicated to the public by our local MP. Here people of Indira Colony, Subhash Nagar and Manimajra come for morning and evening walks. Unfortunately, till now neither there is any arrangement for drinking water inside this green belt nor is there any public toilet,” said Kranti Sukla, founder member, Samasya Samadhaan Team (SST), Manimajra.
Residents maintain that MC should only award contracts of maintenance and upkeep of public toilets to serious jurisdictional MWAs/RWAs and should filter out ghost or non-serious SHG from award of public health maintenance contracts.
“What’s the use of having a concept of building public toilets in neighbourhood parks, if the same are not put to use for public convenience? It has been noticed that most of the public toilets in southern sectors are not properly and regularly maintained. As a result, morning and evening walkers have to face difficulties in easing themselves. On many days, these toilets are found to be locked without any reasons or intimation to public,” said M N Shukla, president, Voice of Group Housing Societies, sectors 48 to 51.
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