With no ‘swachh’ toilets at Chandni Chowk market, women face brunt of civic apathy
Public toilets, which HT visited in Chandni Chowk, were unusable; restrooms at Chawri Bazaar, Lal Quila, and Jama Masjid metro stations, however, are only accessible to passengers; authorities say heavy footfall in the area makes it difficult to maintain toiletsUpdated: Oct 03, 2017 07:42 IST
As India celebrates the completion of three years under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, in the heart of its capital, visitors at the Chandni Chowk market, especially women, are still left floundering for a “swachh” public restroom.
Chandni Chowk market, which caters heavily to a female customer base, is the go-to destination for wedding shoppers, jewellery buyers and even spice lovers.
According to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), in August 2017, the combined average daily footfall at the Chandni Chowk, Chawri Bazar, Lal Quila and Jama Masjid metro stations exceeds 1,00,000, speaking volumes of the number of people who visit the market and nearby areas.
However, for these shoppers, especially women, a call from nature can prove to be the most unpleasant disruptions to their day’s plans.
According to Sanjay Bhargava, the president of the Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, a traders’ association, the area has no facility for women that is clean or hygienic.
“I don’t use the public restrooms here. I hold it in as long as I can, or I go to the gurdwara. It is cleaner. I don’t know what kind of diseases you could catch if you were to use these restrooms,” said Renu (who goes by her first name), who sells bags on the streets.
Though there are a few public restrooms in the area, but the ones that HT visited were almost unusable. One of the bigger ones in the area is located on HC Sen Marg, or the “faware wale road”, but the unbearable stench and vessels cut out of old oil containers provided for washing makes it next to impossible to use. At the other end, near the Jama Masjid police station, the toilet for women is essentially a single faeces-stained room with a hole in the floor — no commodes, no mugs or buckets.
The metro stations in the area, Chawri Bazaar, Lal Quila, and Jama Masjid also have restrooms, but only passengers would have access to these, as they are on the other side of the entry gates. At Chandni Chowk station, the guards said that people can use the Sulabh toilets without having to purchase a ticket, but many complain of unclean conditions here too.
“Ladies visit, kids visit, this is a family’s market. There are restrooms in the gurdwara that are clean, but you can’t go in all the time, can you? Even the ones in the metro stations are in poor condition,” said Neha (who goes by her first name), a shopper in the area.
Nitin Panigrahi, the deputy general manager (project and administration) of the Shahjahan Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC) which is the body working on the redevelopment of Chandni Chowk, said that they were aware of the issue, and they were looking into it as a part of their redevelopment plans. However, he noted that as the Public Works Department (PWD) would be the executing agency for the project, he could not commit on a date by when these would be ready.
PWD principal secretary Ashwani Kumar, however, passed the buck to the MCDs citing the MCD Act, 1957, which puts the responsibility of building public latrines and urinals on the shoulders of the municipal corporation.
Alka Lamba, the MLA from the constituency, also blamed the MCD. “The Delhi government has built toilets in the bylanes. And we also know that the restaurants and hospitals in the areas, allow women to use the facilities when needed. The problem is that the MCD can provide space for encroachments, but not for fully functional toilets,” she said.
The North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) said that in addition to the ones that HT visited, there is another toilet next to the Town Hall, and that it is in the process of building more.
“The major problem is maintenance as the footfall in the area is too high. There is also a scarcity of land. For men, it is easy to build urinals in confined areas; for women we need more land,” said an NDMC spokesperson.
While the different agencies are busy passing the buck and playing the blame-game, the common woman is left stranded.
“People who live in the area can head home. Otherwise, you should make friends with people who stay here. There is no other way. Men can go anywhere. It is the women who get stuck,” said Rama Devi, a fruit vendor in the Dariba Kalan street.