Amid the torrent of apps jostling for space inside your smartphone, here’s one that will have you sending a silent note of thanks to its creators every time you click on it — it helps you locate the nearest public toilet and even tells you how clean it is.
The Swachh Bharat Toilet Locator is the brainchild of an IAS couple from Punjab, driven by their own frustratingly futile search for a toilet in Delhi’s Connaught Place. And it will soon be rolled out by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
The locator will track down and display a list of nearest public toilets, and allow for user rating on hygiene, infrastructure and safety. It is also expected to have several filters providing information on whether the toilet is Indian or Western-style, free or paid, and whether it has additional features such as seats for the differently abled or the availability of sanitary pad dispensers.
The ministry is now in the process of getting urban local bodies in all 4,041 statutory cities and towns in the country to provide data about each and every public toilet before the app is officially launched.
Post-launch, data on toilets available in commercial establishments, petrol pumps or restaurants is also expected to be included through crowd-sourcing.
The idea was developed by Vipul Ujwal, the 37-year-old municipal commissioner of Moga, and his wife Sonali Giri (31), an additional district commissioner in Faridkot.
The two were in Delhi early this year to collect their best electoral practices national award for developing the i-vote app during the last general elections for voters in Punjab, to help them access details of constituencies, candidates, polling booths, voting slips, etc.
“My wife wanted to use the washroom and we simply couldn’t find one. That’s when it struck us that there is a need for the government to release an app which gives detailed information,” said Ujwal, who tied up with two former batchmates from Institute of Management Studies in Bikaner to develop the app.
Within one week, information on locations of all 600 toilets across urban centres in Punjab were fed in with the help of municipal sanitary inspectors, and this model will now be replicated across the country with the help of demo videos and an “easy” user interface.
“If user ratings are bad or slide considerably, the app would flag these toilets to the respective urban local bodies, which will have to remedy the situation. The idea is to not only to locate but also improve the toilets, most of which are not maintained well, in keeping with the PM’s plan for a country free from open defecation,” he said.
When contacted, a ministry official said the app would be launched “very soon”.
“This will not only help inform people but also instill accountability in civic officials in terms of maintaining the toilets,” said Praveen Prakash, joint secretary, MoUD.
Under the Rs 62,009 crore five-year Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, launched by PM Modi on October 2, 2014, Rs 655 crore is to be spent on constructing 2.5 lakh community toilet seats while 2.6 lakh public toilets seats are to be built through the public-private partnership (PPP) model.
Anthem for abhiyan
The Ministry of Urban Development is working on releasing an anthem for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and has brought in Shankar-Ehsan-Loy to compose the music and Javed Akhtar for the lyrics.
Mukesh Bhatt, chairman of the producers’ guild, has been tasked with getting together the leading faces of the film industry to be part of the video.
“We wanted to come up with something along the lines of ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’ that people can relate to. Since Bollywood commands such mass appeal, we are trying to get stalwarts from the Bachchans to the Khans to feature in it,” said Minister of State, MoUD, Babul Supriyo, singer-turned BJP MP.