HT Clean My Chandigarh Campaign | The toilet trouble
Filthy and unusable, the stink raised by restrooms in the City markets and green spaces has reached the vigilance department, which is now investigating the contract given to a Gurgaon-based firmpunjab Updated: Jun 05, 2017 12:23 IST
There are 260 public toilets in the City Beautiful. Built in almost every market and green space, they were supposed to be part of the public conveniences, but so shabby is their upkeep and so filthy their state that they have been reduced to ugly blots on the city landscape. Though the Municipal Corporation is shelling out over Rs 32.5 lakh a month for their upkeep (Rs 12,500 for a toilet), this money seems to be going down the drain. No wonder the vigilance department is now probing the allotment of 137 public toilets to Deva Swimming Institute, a Gurgaon-based firm, in July last year.
Ironically, the MC has failed to maintain the toilets in its own building in Sector 17 as well. UT Adviser Parimal Rai, who made a surprise visit to the MC building in November last year, found the toilets filthy and unusable with no water.
It was three years back that the MC decided to allot public toilets to market welfare associations after the contract of the agency responsible for maintaining them was not renewed in May 2014. Today the market welfare associations are blaming the MC for not releasing the payments for maintenance on time.
Anuj Kumar Sehgal, president of new market welfare association, Sector 36, griped that the MC had been delaying the payments for six months now, and they are forced to shell out money from the association funds, which becomes very difficult for them.
ODF STATUS EXPOSED
Even though the MC received the Prime Minister’s award for achieving 100% Open Defecation Free (ODF) city status last September, the ground reality is different. The 418 mobile toilets placed in slums and colonies at a cost of Rs 1.55 crore, which got the city a score of 270 out of 300, the highest in the Swachh Survekshan Survey 2017 this April, are now in a pathetic condition as a result of which people have again started defecating in the open.
During a visit to Sector 25 and 38, the HT team found that doors of most of the re-locatable toilets were broken, there was no water, and the waste was flowing on the road. Even the safai worker hired to clean these toilets had left work around two months back as he wasn’t being paid his salary. Little wonder then that the residents don’t use these toilets.
UNDER THE VB LENS
The poor upkeep of toilets has also landed the municipal corporation into a Vigilance inquiry. The vigilance department is now probing the allotment of 137 public toilets to a Gurgaon-based firm Deva Swimming Institute in July last year. The firm was allegedly ineligible for the work according to the notice inviting tenders. The vigilance department has asked the MC officers to hand over all records pertaining to the the tender.
The vigilance department further found that the payments made by the MC to the contractor for paying the safai workers at various toilets had failed to reach them. The workers alleged that the contractor was paying them a monthly salary of Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 while he was drawing 14,600 per toilet. The workers demanded that their salaries be in accordance with the district collector rate prevalent in Chandigarh, which is around Rs 11,135 (including EPF and ESIC) per month.
The MC’s struggle to man the toilets began in May 2014 after it did not renew the contract of the agency that had been maintaining them. It was then that it decided to hand them over to market welfare associations. But following a cold response from these associations, it decided to maintain these on their own, but failed to allocate adequate manpower.
In December 2015, 40 banks came forward to run these toilets under their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme, but they backed out due to a dispute on the terms and conditions. Following this, the MC floated a tender to outsource the toilets, but failed to receive any response. In July 2016, the MC allotted around 137 toilets to the Gurgaon-based Deva Swimming Institute, which is now under the vigilance scanner. In December 2016, it again approached the market welfare associations and managed to allot 75 toilets at the rate of Rs 12,500 per month for a toilet.
The toilets have also been raising a stink in the MC house Last year, in a general house meeting held on May 30, Congress councillor Gurbax Rawat had complained that the toilet in the Sector 40-C green belt had been lying locked, and the MC official said it was because their contract was over. Rawant wondered why the tenders could not be floated seamlessly. This prompted several other councillors to complain of similar situation in their sectors. Among them was former mayor Arun Sood who said two toilets in green belts in his ward were also lying locked.
Interestingly, the MC spent had Rs 1.1 crore on the construction of 18 hi-tech toilet blocks in various green belts in November 2013.
These eco-friendly, quake-resistant blocks were made of modular steel structures with walls of expanded polystyrene system to ensure better thermal conductivity.
MC PLANS FOR FUTURE
The civic body is now planning to float a Request for Proposal (RFP) for running and operating 300 toilets for 15 years. The company, who will be allotted the work, will be allowed to display advertisements at 100 sites identified by the MC. It will also construct 60 more toilets besides refurbishing the existing toilets as per the latest design and specifications. The MC will take around two months to complete this process.
MEDICAL DOWNSIDE OF HOLDING TOO LONG
Holding the bladder for too long and not drinking enough water in order to cut down on trips to the loo can lead to multiple medical complications, say doctors. Dr Sanjay Pandey, senior consultant in Urology and Andrology at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital, has a word of advice: it’s better to empty the bladder in a not-so-hygienic loo than not relieving oneself at all. “Given the situation, women must practice self-hygiene, which is to say that they can make some personal adjustments to the use of a public loo they find dirty.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT WATER
According to the Central Water Commission, the highest proportion of domestic water is used for flushing toilets. While 39% of water in every household is used for flushing toilet waste, 29% is used for personal hygiene, 10% each for house Cleaning and washing clothes, and 8% is used for cooking while 4% is used for drinking water. India has the highest number of open defecators in the world at about 626 million (62.6 crore).