Delhi civic bodes rush to build toilets for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan anniversary
Most of the public toilets are coming up near existing facilities that are not used because of poor maintenance. For example, close to New Delhi Railway Station, there are at least six toilets barely 50 metres away but all in bad shape and unusable.delhi Updated: Oct 02, 2017 09:29 IST
New toilets are springing up in Delhi, a megapolis of more than 20 million people that is short on public convenience but long on queues of men relieving against a roadside wall.
Some of these public toilets built with taxpayer’s money are allegedly coming up near facilities that already exist but no longer in use because of lack of maintenance.
The building frenzy is spurred by the city’s three BJP-ruled municipal corporations, which are allegedly hard-pressed to showcase their performance on the third anniversary of the government’s signature Swachh Bharat Abhiyan — a mission to modernise sanitation in India.
The civic agencies resolved this May that there will be enough public toilets to prevent people from defecating in the open. They announced to achieve the target by October 2, the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the cleanliness drive three years ago.
The south and east corporations said in August they would meet the target, but the northern agency called for time till December 15.
But construction began a few weeks ago “hurriedly just for the Swachh Bharat campaign”, according to Rakesh Kumar, the Ajmeri Gate councillor and opposition leader in the North Delhi Municipal Corporation.
“The corporation should maintain existing toilets and make efforts to open unused ones instead of constructing more. I opposed the construction as it encroaches upon a park,” he said.
With little time to complete projects, the civic agencies ignored building standards and built toilets at places without looking if a public convenience is required there or not, opposition political parties and residents alleged.
A toilet in Deshbandhu Gupta Park, opposite Kamla Market in the Ajmeri Gate area, is one such instance. The brickwork is almost complete but shopkeepers in the area alleged that the toilet is built without safety features such as pillars or iron beams.
Located close to New Delhi railway station, there are at least six toilets in the vicinity — one right across the road, barely 50 metres away. But most of these are in bad shape and unusable.
“They started constructing a month ago … without any support of pillars or iron beams,” said a man who runs an eatery nearby.
The north civic agency’s spokesperson dismissed the allegations, saying the department of environment management services (DEMS) surveys a place requiring a new toilet.
“Toilets are built in areas that record a high footfall. Ajmeri Gate is a busy place and the authorities found it necessary to build another toilet. The unused unit needs to be checked,” he said.
Aya Nagar under the south corporation is teeming with 125,000 people but didn’t have public toilets until two were sanctioned recently. These will be barely hundred metres away from each other.
“There are places such as Jonapur and Ghitorni, where there are no public toilets. More than one lakh people live in these two areas. Repeated appeals to the civic officials have fallen on deaf ears,” alleged Ved Pal, the Congress councilor of the area.
Residents complained that hundreds of people are forced to defecate in the open.
A senior civic official said mobile toilets are being provided in several areas and the municipal corporation will build some soon.
Kalyanpuri in east Delhi has four public toilets and two more are being built along the Chand Cinema road. But six is too low a number for thousands of people living there.
Residents said open defecation is rampant as existing toilets are unusable.
“Nothing was done through the year despite repeated appeals. Now that the campaign is about to enter its fourth year, they started constructing toilets under pressure,” alleged Kuldeep Kumar, the councilor for Kalyanpuri.
A senior official of the east corporation reaffirmed the agency’s commitment to make the 64 wards of in east Delhi “open defecation free” by October 2.
“We are constructing new toilets and … efforts are on to keep existing toilets operational,” he said.