A survey of over 200 public toilets across the capital by NGO ActionAid India early in 2017 has revealed poor infrastructure, dysfunctional toilets and a host of issues that affect the safety and security of women and differently-abled users. “There isn’t a single woman I know who has never been in a situation where she had to use the toilet but was not able to because there either wasn’t a women’s toilet in the vicinity or it was too dirty to use,” said Vinisha Shah, a 20-year-old college student. The South Delhi Municipal Corporation’s (SDMC) decision to allow general public to use toilets in restaurants in the vicinity for an option fee of up to Rs 5 may have angered restauranteurs but has made women like Shah very happy.
The SDMC has made it mandatory for all hotels and restaurants under its jurisdiction to let the general public use their toilets. The recommendation to explore the possibility was made to the SDMC by Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal. Prominent places under the SDMC’s jurisdiction include Hauz Khas Village, Saket and Shahpur Jat.
“I remember I was near Lodhi Road one day and had to use the toilet. I went to the toilet complex there but the section for women was locked. This infrastructure is wasted. The toilets that are open are dirty and dingy,” Shah said.
The survey, conducted across 11 districts in the city in toilets primarily run by the Municipal Corporations of Delhi and the New Delhi Municipal Council, has shown toilets with poor signages, irregular cleaning of facilities and lack of running water.
The survey was part of an audit carried out in seven cities in India under the #wheretopee campaign and has shown that the capital’s toilets are not women friendly and have serious safety concerns.
Nearly 70 per cent women respondents said the toilets were not cleaned regularly, 62 per cent said the flush did not function usually and 53 per cent said that running water was not available all the time. A significant portion of toilets did not have availability of soap or handwashing facilities.
The ActionAid survey says that 55 per cent of toilets did not have any light bulbs and 51 per cent did not have light posts outside the complex.
More than 40 per cent of the toilets did not lock from inside and 28 per cent did not have toilet doors. Further, the toilets are not in keeping with the Union’s Government’s Swacch Bharat guidelines for differently-abled users.
Of the toilets surveyed, 78 per cent did not have ramps and 75 per cent did not have any braille signages. The survey also showed the prevalence of manual scavenging practice with nearly 38 per cent reporting that cleaning was done manually.