The missing toilets in Delhi
Even the national capital is not ‘Open Defecation Free’, notwithstanding the hype around toilets. The functional ones are priced and out of bounds The missing toilets in Delhi
Although we struggle daily to survive with dignity, what we need most are clean and functional toilets. Unfortunately, despite raising the demand repeatedly, we are still forced to defecate in the open,” said Janaki Devi of Shahbad Dairy Colony when we visited the area last month.
Similar concerns resonated among women we met in all the four resettlement colonies and slums in outer Delhi.
Sanitary conditions were extremely poor in Bawana Resettlement Colony (F, G, H Blocks) inhabited mostly by people who were evicted a long time back from Beniwal Nagar, 15 Kms away. Women complain bitterly about the lack of functional toilets. Toilets that exist are very few or very dirty.
The presence of drug addicts or alcoholics around the toilets also act as dampeners. The only clean toilet in the locality has just two seats and also charges a high user fee. Hence over 90 per cent of the people living here have no other option but to resort to open defecation. They make a beeline to a nearby canal which too is frequented by anti-social elements and addicts, creating security issues.
The risks increase even more if women have to go out during the night. People also complained that natural drainage having been obstructed by encroachments, stagnant water also poses a major problem.
There is no functional system of collection of solid waste. Close to this colony is another colony referred to as Bawana JJ Colony (in front of L Block). This colony houses people evicted from Paschim Vihar, 25 kms away, about 15 years back. At the Shahbad Dairy Resettlement Colony, people evicted from Shalimar Bagh area have been resettled.
The women here also complain of the absence of secure and better bathing places. Just a 12 square yard or 18 square yard room serves as a kitchen, bathing space as well as the living room. Housing norms in resettlement colonies of Delhi clearly need an urgent revision.
Our last stop was the C-2 Sector-27 Resettlement Colony at Rohini. The people of this colony were evicted from Kirti Nagar, Mayapuri area. The women here talk about the abduction of a young woman who had gone out to defecate and has been traceless since then.
The publicity around Swachh Bharat Abhiyan would have us believe that there is no shortage of toilets; that the Government has helped build millions of them. But people are to be blamed for open defecation because they are unable to change their behavior. But conversations with the women in these colonies revealed their anxiety for clean, functional toilets.Maintenance is an issue that is being ignored.
The few clean and functional toilets have been priced out of their reach. The Government must realise that the poor cannot pay for defecation. And it is still the Government’s responsibility to provide them with safe and functional toilets.