The tall claims of the state government to provide quality sanitation facilities to students fell flat with just one look at the washrooms in Punjab Agricultural University (PAU). Toilets in PAU present a filthy state of sanitation and hygiene maintenance. To make the situation worse, none of these toilets have soaps for students to wash their hands with.
Unhygienic sanitary conditions are seen not only in hostel toilets, but also in toilets of various academic blocks of different departments. Even the toilets in library and students' home, where hundreds of students and visitors come daily, paint a dismal picture.
According to students, including those who are in the final year, the soaps have rarely been seen by them in the toilets since several years. As a result, most of the students, faculty members and other employees have to carry paper soaps or other soaps with them all the time.
"It is funny, but it is very much true," said the university students. The same has been experienced by HT Team during several visits to the PAU campus. While students and other staff carry their personal soaps, the first-time visitors are taken in for a filthy surprise when they enter the university toilets. At times, detergent powder is kept in the toilets for the purpose.
The situation of wash basins is no better as either these are without taps, water or are not functional at all.
"No doubt, the appeal of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes for a toss in the washrooms of PAU. Students are well aware that complaints to authorities concerned will prove futile. It is a matter of hygiene at an educational institution. Repeated complaints by students have fallen on deaf ears each time," said student president of PAU Young Writers Association Swaranjeet Singh.
"Visitors often complain about the pathetic conditions in the university toilets. Housekeeping staff is rarely seen in these toilets. With the absence of housekeeping staff, there is nobody to whom we can ask about missing soaps or getting the toilets cleaned. A stench emanates from these toilets most of the times. The toilet seats too seem to have never been changed. Many times, we are forced to go to toilets of nearby shopping malls," said Karanvir Singh Sandhu, a student association president.
A budget of `310 crore was announced for the university by finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa in Vidhan Sabha in July last year, but the authorities concerned failed to address this basic issue.
"Yes, there are no soaps in toilets," said director, students' welfare, Ravinder Kaur Dhaliwal, while talking on phone, but recommended to contact higher authorities for further details. Despite repeated attempts, estate officer JS Mahal could not be contacted for his comments.
Vice-chancellor BS Dhillon said, "I know that there are no soaps in university toilets and even taps are non-functional. At times, tube lights also go missing. It is a big university. It is not easy to keep an eye on such activities. However, I will try my best to address this issue as it concerns hygiene."