The 'Mumbai is Open Defecation-Free' claim has been punctured of late, with incessant reports about how the city still goes in the open. Yet, we do appreciate the attempts to make the city open defecation-free, and all attempts need to be encouraged and applauded.
The civic authorities need to look sharp on some fronts though, especially access to toilets. Attempting to be an open defecation-free city, but without access to public toilets is counter-productive. Following reports in this paper, the civic body sent mobile toilets to the areas in question, but the purpose seemed defeated because the loos are locked.
There seem to be no answers forthcoming from officials. This follows a pattern, where public infrastructure does have toilets, but they are locked for unfathomable reasons. This paper had run an extensive campaign months ago, on loos on local train platforms. We had discovered that a large number of toilets were locked, especially the women's loos.
A number of toilets on public roads also stand locked for mysterious reasons. The reasons can be as flimsy as waiting for a leader to inaugurate. Other reasons are fights and passing the buck between different civic arms about who is responsible for the functioning of the toilets. Then, there is also the familiar scenario of toilets remaining unfinished, for difficulty in procurement of material to a sudden drying up of funds.
The Swachch Bharat movement may have its critics, but there is little doubt that it has created consciousness, a sense of pride in clean surroundings, an ambition to become as clean as nations in the West.
Having enough accessible loos is one big aspect of the Abhiyaan. More power to more public toilets. Make open defecation-free not just a label, but a reality.
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