EXCLUSIVE | Bengaluru public toilets used for cooking

Pay-and-use toilets are dirty and unhygienic; Metrolife now unearths a bigger scandal: they are being used routinely for cooking, sleeping and storing junk

The condition of Bengaluru’s pay-and-use public toilets is appalling. They are being used as kitchens and living areas, and are so filthy and poorly maintained no one would use them if they had a choice.


A stove and gas cylinder stored in the
ladies toilet in Gandhinagar.

Maintained by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), public toilets make money for those assigned to maintain them. The amenities are dismal, and compromise citizen’s interests at every step. 

Broken buckets, leaky taps, damaged commodes, and doors without locks (even in women’s toilets) are common, but what is even more scandalous is how the toilets are routinely used to cook and sleep. 

The stench is unbearable at the toilets, clearly indicating that they aren’t cleaned as often as they should be. 

Metrolife visited many public toilets across the city, and this is what we found.

Gandhinagar

Toilet kitchen

Bustling Gandhinagar,  a short distance from the City Railway Station, has four toilets for women and three for men. Of the four women’s toilets, two are used for cooking and storing utensils. Women are allowed to use the other two. In one, a big stove, a small stove and a gas cylinder occupy pride of place. Built and maintained by the BBMP, the fee to use it is Rs 5 and the daily collections range between Rs 2,000 and Rs 6,000.


The gents toilet in Shivananda Circle doubles as a bedroom and a kitchen.

Shivananda Circle

Bedroom attached

This toilet proudly proclaims it was built with local area development funds from MP Venkaiah Naidu; it also has the name of BJP leader Katta Subramanya Naidu. A part of the men’s toilet has become a bedroom and kitchen. A blanket is used to separate the toilet from the cooking space. The women’s toilet has broken commodes and doors with no latches. The sewage pipes are damaged, and water overflows on to the road. The average daily collection is between Rs 2,000 and Rs 6,000.


One portion of the men’s toilet in Majestic
does not have a roof.

Majestic

Roofless for men

Constructed by Karnataka Land Army Corporation and maintained by BBMP, the Nirmala pay-and-use toilet in Majestic is one place that you wouldn’t want to revisit. A corner of the men’s toilet has become a kitchen (with cooking utensils and a gas stove); the doors are tied together with a plastic string to ensure they don’t fall. One portion has no roof. The women’s toilet has broken sanitaryware and dirty 20-litre Bisleri cans for use as buckets. The collection here is between Rs 3,000 and Rs 6,000 a day.


A makeshift bed inside the ladies toilet in Commercial Street

Commercial Street

This is ‘luxury’

There are three toilets for women and four for men at the ‘Luxury Public Toilet’ (as it is called) on the busy Commercial Street. The main door to the women’s toilet is broken and the other doors don’t have latches. Women have to hold on to the door while they finish their business. The floors are dirty and slippery. A bed placed prominently, with household objects beside it, is proof that someone lives here. The men’s section has a broken Indian-style toilet. Built and maintained by the BBMP, the daily collection here is about Rs 4,000; it doubles on weekends, thanks to shoppers.


Stove and cylinder stored in one corner of
the men's toilet.

Chamarajpet

Condoms and stoves

This public toilet near Sirsi Circle is built by the Karnataka Land Army Corporation and maintained by the BBMP. Men were casually using the women’s toilet when we went on a reality check. The men’s toilet had a stove and a mini-gas cylinder. Another surprise was that a full carton of Nirodh condoms was placed in the storage space. The women’s wing has broken doors with no latches and a washbasin with no tap. The collection here ranges between Rs 3,000 and Rs 5,000 a day.


A carton of Nirodh condoms stacked in the toilet in Chamrajpet.

What’s cooking?

Stoves and gas cylinders used inside toilets constitute a serious safety hazard. In two places, Metrolife found cooking taking place in close proximity to splashy men’s urinals. You can also imagine the health and hygiene concerns.

Illegal, says BBMP boss

N Manjunatha Prasad, BBMP commissioner, says some public toilets are maintained by pourakarmikas and their families while others are maintained by private contractors. When he was told that toilets were being used to cook, store goods and sleep, he told Metrolife, “I wasn’t aware these things are happening. They are illegal. I will issue orders to get these cleared.” The BBMP, he says, usually assigns one caretaker and one cleaner to maintain a toilet. Asked where money collected from toilet users goes, he said, “I don’t know. I will have to check and revert.”

Health hazards

Cooking close to a toilet and poor hand hygiene can easily result in contamination and many infections causing diarrhoea and even viral hepatitis, warns Dr Naresh Bhat, Chief of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Aster CMI Hospital. He adds that Typhoid fever and cholera
can also be transmitted. Dr Naresh points out that public toilets have a higher chance of picking up infections, especially if unclean and perhaps more in women.

“Moreover unclean toilets are a deterrent to their use and hence people hold their bowel and bladder for long making them prone to problems. The most important thing that needs to be emphasised is good hand hygiene after use of toilet and this often gets compromised by cooks and others,” says Dr Naresh.

“People who man these toilets may be carriers of various bugs and are capable of transmitting infections without themselves suffering,” he cautions.

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EXCLUSIVE | Bengaluru public toilets used for cooking

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