It’s not every day that a 22-year-old speaks about how humiliating it is to spend his Ramzan amid the filth at the Shahdara Railway Station, Delhi.
“It has not been easy for my daughters and wife to sustain in the muckiness of the toilets here. The toilet can only be used in a limited time span, twice a day, when there is water supply; other than that, we defecate in the open. The buckets we got from our hometown were stolen recently, along with our phones, rickshaw battery and money. Recently, my wife got into a quarrel with a neighbour lady over a bucket of water,” said Deepak, who has been staying there for the last 27 days.
“The toilets have been built by the permanent residents of the neighbouring area using waste tiles and materials for their own convenience. Despite having a bathroom, we don’t have a specific area to bathe. Ultimately, our women have to bathe in the open.
Drunkards and passersby jeer at them. It’s not a safe place for anybody
and at night it gets even more difficult to stay here. Also, the washroom is built quite far from our place, so we avoid using the toilet at night and end up defecating in the open. Even though we came here for a short while, we want to go back to our hometown due to the unhygienic conditions of this area,” he adds.
‘Passersby hide in the cars and harass us’
Tughlakabad: Had it not been for economic compulsions, residents of Prahladpur Railway Colony would have left the area given its unlivable conditions.
“Staying here is not easy and all these years we have faced the agony of staying in an unhygienic area with limited toilet and power facilities. The conditions here are not appealing for anybody, yet due to our financial status we have no other option. Once, we mutually decided to build a toilet from our savings but it led to a fight and the project was abandoned midway,” said Titra Devi (50), of Prahladpur Railway Colony, Tughlakabad, who has been living in these squalid conditions for the last 25 years.
“Children are being affected by waterborne diseases, when they should be getting education to be able to improve their families’ condition and get them out of poverty,” Devi said.
“We, the women of this area, have been embarrassed the most as we have no other option than to bathe and defecate in common, open spaces. Our men, out of respect, don’t come close to the area we occupy, but passersby hide in the cars and harass us. It is not easy to let down your walls openly, but out of no option, we have to,” she added.
‘We have not had a toilet for two years’
Chandni, 18, Cigarettewala Bagh, Model Town: Open defecation is a safety hazard for women who are compelled to step out in the night alone to relieve themselves.
“The toilet we had earlier was not in good shape. Although a new one was constructed, it was closed by the authorities. We were told there was some problem with the pipes. It has been two years now and they still have not reopened it. There are more than a thousand people in our slum and yet we are left without a toilet,” said Chandni, 18, a resident of Cigarettewala Bagh in Model Town.
“We now go to the nearby park which both men and women use. It is extremely embarrassing for us to defecate in public. For women and young girls, it is especially difficult as they get teased by men. The situation worsens during emergencies and at night as there are a lot safety hazards. There are incidents where women get groped at night.”
“Our respect and dignity are important to us, but we are left with none. There are times when men at the park restrict our entry. Even children are not spared by them and they get shouted at. Despite this, there has not been a single effort by the authorities to install a functional latrine and we are left with no option but to lead our lives like this,” she said.
‘We are abused by the guards if we don’t pay’
Hemlata, 33, Sector 6, RK Puram: Upkeep of the toilets is an issue that authorities have ignored for long.
“Even though we have a toilet complex, out of the 20 earmarked for women, only 10 are usable. Even these are almost always dirty,” said Hemlata, 33, a resident of RK Puram.
“We are required to pay `3 every time we need to use the latrine. On top of this, we need to wash our clothes and bathe in the same complex for which we need to pay separately. This is a problem, since we do not have the means to pay so much so often. We are verbally abused by the guards if we do not pay the money,”
“We do not know where the money is going as the toilets are not cleaned regularly. It is extremely unhygienic and unsanitary. The complex is shut by 11pm and opens at 4am. If anyone needs to use the latrine in the interim, they have no other option but to go to the road and relieve themselves in public. This is extremely humiliating, as we get stared at by men. At night we are scared to take our children out on the roads... The government wants a Swachh Bharat but how can we work towards it if we do not have basic amenities like toilets?” she asks.