Jasleen Kaur | September 9, 2014
In December 8, 2008, Delhi assembly election results were to be announced and, working as a correspondent for a television channel, I had to report at chief minister Sheila Dikshit’s residence at seven in the morning. This was going to be one long day.
With an experience of over a year, I was used to working long hours on field so I avoided drinking water. Not using a toilet for long affects one’s health, I knew. But then, I didn’t have an option. Close to 7 pm, I was relieved from duty. I had to finally answer the call of nature. Home was a good 45 minute away and I had no option but to use a public toilet, perhaps for the first time in life.
I requested the video journalist accompanying me to help me find one. But, to our surprise, it was not an easy hunt, even in a VIP area. From 3 Motilal Nehru Marg (CM’s residence) till Gole Market, on a stretch of nearly 4 km, we could not find a single toilet for women. We managed to find one near Gole Market, which wasn’t yet opened to public, but had one unlocked toilet. It was quite dark and the toilet was deserted. The video journalist accompanied me till the gate.
Delhi, being the national capital where a woman chief minister ruled for 15 years, has been dealing with the issue for too long. While women constitute almost half the city’s work force, they are also the biggest sufferers, for whom it is not only a matter of dignity but also of safety. There are just 269 toilets for women in Delhi while there are 3,712 for men, according to a 2013 report. Busy Karol Bagh and Chandni Chowk markets lack basic facilities for women. While Karol Bagh zone that includes busy markets and commercial zones had only two toilets for women, the south zone had five.
I agree with former union minister Jairam Ramesh who once said the country needs toilets more than temples. I believe building toilets is not just a question of improving the environment but also of human dignity. In case of women, apart from ensuring hygiene, the government must also employ people for security. Unlike men, we don’t contribute to make Delhi streets a public urinal, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need toilets. It is surprising that it took 67 long years for us to even discuss the most fundamental necessity.
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