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At protest site: Toilets too few, too filthy, farmers stare at health crisis

In the afternoon, a group of women farmers, aged around 45-50, walked towards a mall near the Singhu border. One of them said that women have it toughest here when they are on their periods. “We have no washroom to take a bath and wash our clothes"

Written by Jignasa Sinha , Ashna Butani | New Delhi | Updated: December 12, 2020 8:24:24 am
farm bills, farm bill protest, issues at protest sites, Farmer issues, punjab farmers protest, protest site toilets, Bharatiya Kisan Union, farmers health crisis, farmers protest news, indian express newsTemporary toilets for men and women at the Singhu border protest site. (Photo: Abhinav Saha)

“We can’t take a shower. There’s no place for women to take a bath or change their clothes. It’s been two weeks here and most of the toilets can’t be used. People are compelled to use the fields and footpaths. It is unhygienic but the farmers don’t have an option.” Gurmeet Singh, a property dealer from Amritsar who has joined the protest at Singhu border along with his family, summed up what many have been struggling with at Singhu and Ghazipur borders, where thousands are gathered to protest against the farm bills.

Over the past two weeks, protesting farmers have had to tackle dirty toilets and drains. And with the crowd becoming bigger by the day, the situation is fast turning into a health hazard. At Singhu border, only 20-25 porta toilets have been set up — far less than what the crowd requires — and most are too filthy to be used.

Farmer groups have hired workers to clean the washrooms, but given the footfall, it is a near impossible task. Rakesh Bais, a member of the Bharatiya Kisan Union from Haryana, said, “We called in workers to clean the nearby 10 porta cabins but it didn’t work — in less than a day, we ran out of water and the toilets were again filled with garbage and filth.”

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Several farmers walk to hotels and shops to look for alternatives, but most of these places are more than 10 km from the protest site. And not every place is willing to welcome them.

In the afternoon, a group of women farmers, aged around 45-50, walked towards a mall near the Singhu border. One of them said that women have it toughest here when they are on their periods. “We have no washroom to take a bath and wash our clothes… There are four ladies toilets near our tent. All of them are dirty. We go to malls but these places are mostly shut,” said one of them.

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District authorities in Haryana have placed more mobile toilets near Sonepat but farmers said these too are unclean. A senior official from Kundli said, “There are more than 500 toilets at the protest site. We have deployed workers to collect garbage and clean the washrooms. We are trying to help the farmers but there are more than 17,000 people there. We need time to fix this.”

At Ghazipur, a number of portable washrooms have been set up by the Ghaziabad Nagar Nigam and the Nagar Palika Parishad, Khora-Makanpur. Here, too, the same issue persists.

At the spot, there were five washroom vans comprising 26 toilets — 12 for women, eight for men, three were unisex, and two dedicated to specially abled persons. While some were clean, others gave off a stench and were flooded with dirty water. A constable who used the washroom said, “I use it sometimes. It is cleaned but not too often.”

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Narendra Chowdhury (48), a farmer from Baghpat, said the washrooms are not cleaned often and occasionally run out of water. So he and others from his district walk to the petrol pump 500 metres away to use the washroom there. “A public washroom is located a kilometre away. We have to pay Rs 5 to use the toilet and Rs 10 for a bath. Since we are not farming, we are making losses back there. Here too, we are forced to spend money.”

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