03 OF TOILETS: CRUMBLED AND ASSEMBLED
The public toilet infrastructure in M ward is sketchy. A 2015-16 study examining access to sanitation infrastructure in the slum settlements in the ward found that each toilet seat in some areas served as many as 190 users on average. In comparison, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan norms are 25 persons per seat for women and 35 for men. The high ratio of toilet users implies a waiting time of four hours at peak time and indicates an overburdened infrastructure.
For a settlement to be declared Open Defecation Free (ODF), Swachh Bharat Abhiyan guidelines require access to a toilet within a 500-metre distance for every household.
Capacity per toilet seat as per laws:
Average user per seat
Average toilet block in surveyed areas
10 Seats for men
10 Seats for women
The poor are often portrayed as wanting to defecate in the open and hence requiring behavioural change. However, in M Ward we see communities making great efforts to get toilet facilities. Maharashtra Nagar does not have a public toilet at all. So, women in the transit camp there have come together to make toilets out of tarpaulin sheets. The enclosures protect them from sexual harassment, including from being photographed.
What does ‘safe’ sanitation mean in this context? A denial of permissions to construct toilets on techno-legal grounds? A lack of investment and research into possible options for home-based sanitation? A perpetuation of a vote-yielding and corrupt practice of public toilet construction and operation? The regular recurrence of ‘death by toilet’? When the city is being remade in multifarious ways why is the issue of accessible sanitation being neglected?