Maharashtra declared open-defecation free, but these Mumbai photos say otherwise
Hours before President Ram Nath Kovind declared urban Maharashtra open defecation free (ODF) at an event in Worli on Sunday, HT photographers found evidence to the contrary at Mankhurd, Shanti Nagar in Wadala, the Mahim railway track, Antop Hill, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Mahim Causeway, and Somaiya Ground in Sion.
HT photographers visited these spots between 6.43 am and 8.20 am and found that it was business as usual. Scores of men could be seen defecating in the open, some carried cans of water.
Earlier too such claims had been exposed. Then the BMC had claimed that the areas under its jurisdiction were free of open defecation and that it happened only on Railway and central government land.
But on Sunday morning, open defecation was on even in areas under the BMC.
At Sunday’s function, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis was at pains to clarify that the state could become free of open defecation only when people changed their habits.
“Why is the state government in hurry to declare its ODF status? Even a simple walk around the city, without any expert surveyors, will be enough to refute this claim. The declaration is a PR exercise,” said GR Vora, member, F/North citizen Federation.
The Centre revalidated Mumbai’s status as an ODF city on Thursday.
Earlier, the Quality Council of India (QCI), a government regulator, certified the financial capital as ODF in 2016 and 2017, leading to objections from activists and residents, who said the city has a long way to go. They added that incidents of open defecation are neither rare, nor limited to certain areas.
While activists said the toilets being built do not have any obvious shortcomings, a lot more needs to be done.
“Things have improved over the past year, but the city is nowhere close to being ODF. In addition to building new toilets in slums, the civic body also needs to audit the old public toilets, as many in the areas such as Mankhurd and Govandi are in a precarious condition,” said Mumtaz Shaikh, activist from Right to Pee.
However, civic officials maintain that the city deserves its status, saying they have adhered to all the guidelines specified by the QCI. Opposition members in the civic body, however, criticised the government over the issue.
“This revalidation shows how frivolous this exercise is. The Maharashtra government should tell us whether they really want all the cities to be ODF, or whether this status is only undertaken to boost Swachh Bharat Abhiyan statistics and earn praise for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government?” asked Ravi Raja, Opposition leader in BMC. There are currently 7,415 toilets across Mumbai, in addition 4,000-plus new public toilets are being constructed in the city.
The civic body also installed 800 mobile toilet seats at 95 locations, for which it spent Rs3 crore in April. The state government’s Swachh Bharat mission report, however, shows the BMC in the bottom five civic corporations, in terms of building toilets.