Article: #SwachhBharatAbhiyan (SBA) – Include existing Public Toilets in SBA

Copyright@shravancharitymission

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done well by wielding the broom to clean a road and its surroundings, thereby, burnishing the lost grandeur of ‘dignity of labour.’ He has also formed a formidable team of star citizens, who have given impetus to the campaign launched in around 4041 statutory towns. Where in you find cine stars, sports persons, social activists, industrialists, professionals and even politicians, psyched out. Icons like Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Ambani, Kamal Hassan, Sachin Tendulkar, Shashi Tharoor and many other distinguished personalities have graced the campaign, by lending both, social and glamour weight.

So with all of this, the speed and velocity of the campaign looks set to deliver the goods. However, the priorities within this need to be tweaked, mainly to prioritize the initial tranches. Where, I have some pointed and granular suggestions to make, that oozes right out of my firsthand experience. Create as many Public toilets as possible, in the shortest possible time and also include the existing ones in the campaign. Perhaps, this suggestion of mine may give the whole campaign a better fillip in converting the movement into a mass movement with the least of resistance. Arising, more out of the immediate necessity of the deprived public, in this case the general public; because of the limited, shabby and poor infrastructure that throws the spanner in the development of India.

For it was just, yesterday when I was driving down the crowded market area on Hill Road in Bandra, is when I felt like relieving myself. I stopped the car, got off and started looking for a public urinal. Keeping strictly in mind the Prime Minister’s message of Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, and trying to observe it to my heart’s content.

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I must have spent about half-an-hour in the crowded market area, in which time I must have covered more than a kilometer but I still could not find a public toilet. Is when I saw the logo of a petrol pump to my heart’s delight, as we all know have toilets. ‘Wow- what a relief’ I said to myself. And this got me thinking.

If this is the condition of Mumbai, one of the biggest metropolis of India what about other cities? With a burgeoning population, Mumbai has a deficit of at least 47,000 toilet seats, and the cost of constructing one toilet is INR 150,000, say authorities, so we can imagine the cost involved. This shortage in 2001 was a whooping 125,000 toilet seats when the Brihan Mumbai Muncipal Corporation (BMC) had conducted its first survey on the sanitation needs for the country’s commercial population. Going by 2001 figures, the ratio of toilets versus population comes to a whopping 1: 50 or 3,000 people using it daily in Mumbai.

MUST COMPLIMENT THE OIL COMPANIES

After relieving myself, I sincerely blessed the oil companies that thought of customer convenience, by having toilets in all their retail outlets which Indian Railways couldn’t provide in all platforms. Further, I thought this is a big opportunity to include these readily available toilets, as part of the Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan as pay and use toilets to catapult the campaign exponentially.

Today, India has about 45,000 filling stations more than Canada or UK as of March 2012, and most are with the facility of a toilet. If these toilets are made to join the SBA on a pay and use basis we can have a sudden flurry of toilets and that will certainly help the SBA.

For the Government to make public toilets, every 1-2 km, in crowded market areas along the road side may be a gigantic and close to a non doable task, so here is the way forward. Today, the immediate pressing need for the Public at large is a convenient network of clean toilets spaced around close proximity and concomitant is the wielding of broom to keep it clean. While it may be possible to construct new toilets on highways and open roads but may be extremely difficult in the already cramped and crowded market areas and this is where these toilets can come in handy

CAMPAIGNS CAN CHANGE REALITIES

Even though Government of India has transcribed incentives for building public toilets. All is not achieved merely by announcing incentives on paper alone, as it requires mindsets to change–that running a public toilet too, is a respectable venture; something like Sulabh Shauchalaya.

And so, India needs a renewed and intense campaign to promote public toilets as a doable business by respectable Individuals, Unemployed Youth, Business Houses, Societies, Builders, NGOs, SMEs, Hospitality Industry and under Corporate Social Responsibility.

Government should promote people having genuine intent of doing this noble task, and who have spare Land on which Private – Public Toilets could be constructed, or even existing toilets that could be utilized at prime and vantage locations as pay and use toilets.

The building bylaws should be tweaked to incentivise for mass proliferation of such public toilets and also sops in the form of rebate in property tax or any other, are a few boons that should be considered by the Government, if possible.

Running public toilets could be ticked at par with running hospitals as both reduce human suffering. Modi Government could further do well in bringing about this social change. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in fact has orated in one of his speeches abroad that he is currently busy in construction of Public toilets.

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