Would you allow someone to use the toilets in your home if they paid you for this? I am guessing you will be chary of this however well meaning you may be. The South Delhi Municipal Corporation is not hampered by any such sentiment, it has decided that the washrooms of South Delhi hotels, restaurants and eateries will have to be accessible to the public for a fee of upto Rs 5. This is on the grounds that not enough facilities are available to the public and that this will be beneficial to women. The restaurant managements are not jumping with joy at this as they maintain, and rightly so, that being private establishments they cannot be forced to making their facilities public since rights of admission vest with them.
There is a hygiene aspect to allowing all and sundry to use toilet facilities in restaurants because it will be impossible to ensure cleanliness if people other than patrons are allowed in. A restaurant is normally assessed on its hygiene standards among other things and now this aspect will be taken out of the hands of the owners and staff. Then there is the issue of security which will be difficult to ensure when large numbers of people are trooping in and out using the facilities in eateries. It is the duty of the government, not the private sector, to provide clean and safe public toilets since this is part of what the taxpayer coughs up for. To conveniently shift the onus onto the private sector is to admit that the government has failed in this fundamental need for toilets. As we have seen despite all the talk of Swacch Bharat, people especially men have no compunctions about using public spaces to pee. Women are hampered in this respect. But the answer is more public facilities for which a small fee can be charged, as is being done in certain places, so that people are not inconvenienced while going out.
The right of any private establishment to frame its own rules must be respected as long as they do not violate any law. They have a right to prescribe a dress code and they have a right to decide who can or cannot be let in to their premises. The first priority for them has to be their customers many of whom may not fancy having to queue up for the washroom along with the public. There is definitely a shortage of public toilets in our cities. But this is the result of governmental apathy for which the private sector cannot be expected to pay a price. What if an eatery decides that its facilities cannot bear the traffic? Will they be penalised? If so, is this even legal? This is the easy way out, get someone else to do your job for you. This is a bad precedent and should be jettisoned immediately. By all means, involve the private sector in partnerships to build and maintain public toilets but don’t make it a right for people to use private facilities. Don’t go in for shortcuts, find a lasting solution to the problem of the lack of public facilities for the people.