GROUND ZERO: Taking nature’s call in the open

This is the second installment of a two-part series done on public sanitation and open defecation. You can read the first part here

Dilip Bhise still remembers the morning he picked up the body of his friend who died when he got hit by a speeding car on Paud Road two years ago. “He was going to use the public toilet across the road from Lokmanya Colony slum. Many of us have to walk 300 metres to access this toilet. So far, more than ten people have died while crossing the road just to use the toilet. Our lives would be so much better if we didn’t have to excrete at all,” explains Bhise, who along with many other men living in that slum now defecate in the open.

To keep up with the deadlines of the Swachh Bharat Mission, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has vowed to make the city an open defecation-free by October 2, 2017. According to data provided by PMC, 74,450 individual household latrines (IHHL) should have been built by December 31, 2016 for the city to become free of open defecation.

We earlier reported on the inadequacies faced in the set up of mobile toilets for women in the city. You can read the report here.

Inside Lokmanya Tilak slum, where the men’s mobile toilets were placed

There are 660 residents in the slum in Lokmanya Colony, Kothrud. With no public toilets within the slum, the residents defecate openly behind the slum in a space that was Pune’s garbage depot till 1999.

From the 660 residents, most families do not have individual toilets as a consequence of the lack of drainage pipes within the slum.

Currently, there are mobile toilets only for women, “There were mobile toilets for men. It was setup by Kishor Shinde, the previous corporator but it was taken away after he lost the elections. The mobile toilets for women are in a really poor state,” says Shailesh Salunke, a resident of the slum. Another resident who uses the mobile toilets, Swati Khemkar, fears for her and her children’s health. “Children easily catch a cold or cough. There is also a constant worry of them contracting pneumonia. For us women, during the menstrual cycle it becomes very difficult to maintain cleanliness. But we have no option but to use these toilets.”

Crossing Paud Road to get to the public toilet

Asserting the importance of the citizens’ need to take charge, Jayant Bhosekar, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, Kothrud, states that they cannot expect the municipality to clean up everything. “The major chunk of the responsibility lies with the citizens. They cannot expect us to clean their mess. We have newly constructed toilets for men and women with 15 to 20 seats each. We have our targets to make Pune a defecation-free city and it is something we must achieve. To stop people from defecating at the garbage depot, we are going to build compound walls. There is some policing needed and we will take our rounds to make sure that no one defecates openly.”

On asking him about the deaths due to the lack of toilet facilities in the vicinity, he is quick to quip , “Who asked them to go there?”

 

Vijayta Lalwani

Vijayta Lalwani

The young lady from Lagos has always been keen on a career in journalism. Pune365 was hence the right stop. We agree. vijayta@pune365.com
Vijayta Lalwani

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