Toilet Tales: Mumbai marred by inadequate public infrastructure


Geetanjali Minhas | September 13, 2014

Bursting at its seams, India’s financial capital is marred by inadequate public infrastructure. Ironically, our municipality (the richest civic body in Asia) and our administrators have not been able to provide the bare minimum facility of toilets for its population, mainly so for women. For a journalist, travelling by public transport or walking down the road, rushing from one place to the other is a routine affair, but lack of public convenience poses a grave problem. Besides unbearable stench, a majority of public toilets do not have doors, taps, water, buckets, ventilation and electricity, making them extremely unhygienic and the women vulnerable to attacks from drug addicts and criminals lurking in the area.

Of Mumbai’s 1.3 crore population, 80 lakh live in slums and depend on community and public toilets. In these slums, women standing in queues with mugs of water outside community toilets are subjected to lewd stares and comments.

An Observer Research Foundation survey on sanitation facilities at Mumbai’s 109 suburban railway stations between December 2009 and January 2010 revealed ignominious shortfall of toilets and their dysfunctional and deplorable condition. Nothing much has changed since. Few functional toilets that are available are either locked or blocked with debris and other building material. The busy Churchgate station has many food stalls next to a stinking public toilet. Most working class women prefer to use office toilets before leaving their workplace or go to a restaurant, five-star hotel and any such place to use a clean washroom whenever possible.

“The Brihanmumbai municipal corporation’s (BMC) own circular says women should not be charged for using toilets, but irrespective of that women are charged '2-5,” says Mumtaz Shaikh of Right to Pee Campaign initiated by Committee of Resource Organisations.
Mumbai has 113 urinals, 5,136 water closets and 61 bathrooms for women, but clearly it is not enough.



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