Your Space: Toilets at fuel stations are private property
Pune Municipal Corporation commissioner recently issued a notification asking petrol pump owners to convert lavatories at fuel stations into public toilets. The owners have, however, refused to comply stating it is not their responsibility to maintain public toilets. The move comes at a time when the PMC has failed to maintain an effective public toilet infrastructure.pune Updated: Dec 23, 2017 21:28 IST
For the last few years, governments have been off loading their responsibilities on to the public. The first major instance was making corporate social responsibility (CSR) mandatory. Most companies have been doing their bit voluntarily, however, mandating such activities makes it an irrational imposition. Another instance under the guise of humanitarian help is forcing private hospitals to provide treatment to accident victims without a) compensating the costs, and b) avoiding police harassment. This is the job of the police and government-owned ambulance services and hospitals. These are dangerous trends.We pay taxes to the governments to provide free services. Instead, the governments at all levels are ‘out sourcing’ without compensating the providers. Now this trend has come down by the LSG level.I do not approve of the Pune Municipal Corporation's move. The pumps' toilets are private property. Will the PMC next ask hotels and later even house owners to make their toilets available to the public?
Lack of hygiene-friendly infrastructure
The root cause of the issue is that our city does not have a hygiene-friendly infrastructure. The development plan of the city has over 800 reserved plots which are lying vacant, many of them encroached on and used for garbage dumping. There are thousands of public establishments in the city, civic facilities, public schools and government offices where the toilets are in most unhygienic conditions.
So before the municipal corporation tries to drop off its responsibilities on to the few hundred petrol pump owners, they should first do the following -
- All PMC and government buildings should first revamp their toilet infrastructure and open their facilities to public.
- All amenity spaces should be built with toilet facilities. All the amenity spaces in Pune consisting of facilities like gardens, playgrounds and community centres should be built with toilets with boards outside mentioning ‘Toilets for Public Use’.
- The labourers working in construction sites and staying in makeshift labour camps are the worst effected as builders don't provide them any toilet facilities. Such labourers also cut trees as they do not have cooking fuel. Such sites should be first inspected and work should be stopped until the builder provides toilets and clean cooking fuel to the labourers.
- Under the Pune Smart City project, there are many amenity spaces which are being developed. Toilets should be constructed at these places with the use of latest technology and innovations like solar panels and water-less urinals should be adopted. Most importantly, all public toilets should be maintained by proper agencies with daily cleaning and inspection by the PMC’s health department.
After taking robust measures, the PMC should focus on commercial malls, hotels, establishments and petrol pumps to make their toilet facilities open to public.
In conclusion, the problem cannot be solved in isolation. The onus is on the elected representatives and on the municipal authorities to recognise the hygiene and sanitation issue as an important issue and to take strategic decisions and implement them instead of making such orders.
Align Indian toilet project with UN
The Indian toilet project must be completely aligned with the United Nations clean toilet programme.The issue of public health and hygiene, though given a lot of importance by the government and local self-government institutions, has to be dealt with holistically. It has become a fashion to inaugurate the clean toilet blocks by the elected representatives and those working in the social sector.
I have seen that the genuine and passionate desire to bring about a change in building a good public toilet infrastructure is missing in the society. The public representatives, too, need to think different and act in consonance with the international cleanliness and hygiene norms as stated by the United Nations.
If we look deeper into the issue, rural Maharashtra is performing better in terms of building public toilet infrastructure and open defecation prevention programme, while the urban spaces are getting neglected because of the alleged lack of will by the city fathers to think in the interests of the citizens which reveals their narrow mindedness and complete lack of vision for the city.
Crores of rupees are being collected as taxes, but a visionary approach for a clean India through construction of high quality public toilet assets is unfortunately missing. We are closely working with a number of international public health agencies in bringing about cleanliness reforms in the country.
Opening public toilets at petrol pumps for the general populace is a good move, but what is more important is for the PMC to do its job in a professional manner which it is not doing. First, improve, upgrade and expand your own PMC toilet infrastructure and then instruct the petrol pump owners.
Dr Anwar Shaikh
Need large-format, smart public toilets
The number of public toilets in the city is very small as compared to the rising population, which shows no signs of going down in the future. The toilet blocks are constructed at places where public toilets have been functioning for decades together. The need of the hour is to look for construction of large-format smart public toilets in reserved plots for public amenities.
It is seen that the large public spaces are utilised for parking, gardens, solid waste management treatment plants, water treatment facilities and for other utilities, except construction of public toilets. Large public toilets will solve the problem of health and hygiene and give a new boost to the city environment.
A separate public toilet department will be a good corpus and must be started by the civic body for the citizens of Pune. The health department must adopt the best practices in the field and learn from the corporate and industry about how to construct and maintain world class public toilets where everyone has the right to access and not for the privileged who pay and use them.
Petrol pump owners must open toilets to public
Pune is under lot of pressure as the existing public toilet facilities cannot cope with the demands of the citizens in the city. The petrol pump owners have been escaping the PMC eye for a long time as they are duty-bound to open the toilets to the citizens. They are paid by the oil companies for maintaining the entire infrastructure at the pump for the end users. However, these pump owners smartly allow the usage only for themselves and their staffers and most their close associates. The general public does not know about the facilities at the petrol pump. The pump owners are also adept in misinforming the people, and hence, the PMC decision is in the larger interests of the citizens. If any petrol pump owner fails to allow access to the toilet, then he must be brought under the ambit of penal and criminal action as the toilet is a public asset and not a private entity.