Of stolen faucets, buckets and mugs

Of stolen faucets, buckets and mugs

Poor maintenance of public toilets across the City may have raised a stink. But beyond the struggle to meet even the basic standards of cleanliness is a far more serious issue: That of equipment in public loos doing the disappearing act.

These pay-and-use toilets are manned by personnel, but one look inside reveal missing cisterns, reservoir chains, buckets, trash cans and even faucets. But that seems a minor problem considering the cleanliness of several public toilets.

Commercial establishments increasingly prefer western commodes to Indian-style squat pans. This might perhaps be due to a sense of perceived sophistication, but the sad fact is these washrooms need to maintain a higher level of hygiene than an Indian toilet.

Chances of contracting a urinary infection are high with ill-maintained western toilets.
When the pay-per-use system was introduced for toilets, people begrudged paying a fee because they believed it might lead to better maintenance of these places. That confidence seems to be misplaced.

Manju, a shopkeeper at the Jayanagar Shopping Complex, says the public toilet at the complex was clean enough. Also, since there are women taking care of them, she does not fear sending her daughter alone to the toilet. However, her problem is the Rs 3 fee fixed for using the toilets. “I hardly do any business. I shell out my earnings for transport and cannot afford a such a big fee for using toilets,” she says.

Regular users of toilets in the shopping complex complain that the level of cleanliness need to improve. Seema, who works in a cosmetic store, says she has to shell out Rs 3 for every use, but the toilets are not clean enough. “I do not have a choice. So, I have to use the same toilets. There are toilets on the first floor that can be used for free, but they are in a terrible condition,” she complains.

But Seema knows it is not just cleaners, but users themselves who sometimes contribute to the mess.

Nirmala, who works as a sales assistant, spends the whole day in the shop. Like many others, she too feels that the Rs-3 fee is “expensive”. “It is because of this I end up applying leave when I have a health problem. I cannot afford to use the toilet more than once a day because of the high fee,” she says.

Nirmala blames the public more than workers. Hundreds of people use public toilets every day and workers do their best to keep them clean. The onus is on the public, she says.

Many who visit the toilets do not care enough to use water or close the tap. “When they can see a dustbin right next to them, they throw waste on the floor. Who is to blame,” she asks.

As it is, we are sceptical about using public toilets. In case of emergency, there has to be some facility in place. The City is huge and going back home might take hours. After all, once you come shopping on Commercial Street, you end up spending a couple of hours at the very least.
Rashmi, Pharmacy student

People prefer to urinate in the public rather than pay and use public toilets. This is one of the reasons why public toilets are a flop in slum areas. Even the existing toilets are not maintained well in the City.
I M Prahalad, Training and research assistant,
Community Health Cell