Slum dwellers can't build toilets for want of sewers

Slum dwellers can't build toilets for want of sewers

Slum dwellers can't build toilets for want of sewers

Imagine you and your family have to use a public lavatory for years on end because you can’t construct a toilet in your house as there are no sanitary sewers.

This is not the story of some remote hamlet in a distant and backward part of the country. This is the ground reality in the K S Garden slum (near Lalbagh Road), probably one of the oldest shanties in Bengaluru. The majority of its inhabitants have no option but to use stinking toilets. The slum is inhabited by about 5,000 people who live in uneven and dilapidated houses of one or two rooms. Most of the houses are located so close that you can jump from one into another. The slum has roads which are just one- or two-foot wide. The public toilet is a two-storeyed building, with the ground floor being used by women.

Anand Raj, 28, who works as a welder, has lived in the slum all his life. When this reporter visited the slum, he was coming out of the public toilet, holding a toothbrush in his hand. Asked if he is the only one who uses the toilet, he said: “I have a wife and two children. We all use this public toilet. Just to give you an estimate, out of the 100 families living nearby, only two or three of them have toilets in their homes. The rest are all dependent on this facility.”

Of the 13 toilets for men on the upper floor, three are too filthy to be used. Although the rest aren’t any better, people make do with it. Polymer drums, which are used for storing water, are corroded.

It is no different for the toilets meant for women. Karaline, 36, a local resident who works as a domestic help, said that if she had to bath, she would wait for everyone in her house to go out. “For other purposes, there is this public toilet. We don’t have a choice,” she said. Even families which have toilets in their homes have to use the public lavatory whenever the toilet sewer gets clogged. “When it rains, water from the toilet sewer gets into our home. We have to stop using the toilet in the house then,” said Meena S, a homemaker who lives in one of the more fortunate houses here.

Canvassing for votes in the slum on Monday, Srinivasan C, the BJP candidate from Sudhamanagar (ward 118), told this reporter that he aims to improve the condition of not just this slum but also that of 17 other slums located in the area. But Meena is cynical. “I’ve seen many such politicians come here and make these promises before the elections. But things never change.”

There was a time when there were several open drains in the slum, said Manohar, a social worker whose father and grandfather all lived in the locality. “Children would fall in the open drains. Fortunately, they are now covered with concrete slabs but they get clogged often,” he said. “Many houses don’t have proper water supply, garbage is not cleared and floodwater enters almost all the houses. In these many years, little that has changed here.”