Slum Sanitation and Hygiene - A Terrible Problem in India

Eleven people have been killed in toilet-related accidents in Mumbai since 2013.  This is not an accident but a homicide.

On April 28, at 6:30 am, Babubhai Devji (40) and Loben Jethwa (42) went to the public toilet at MHADA's Saisdan Chali in Bhandup. Suddenly the ground of that toilet eroded; Beneath it was an 8-foot-deep abyss filled to the brim. Babubhai and Loben both fell into the pit filled with human excrement. Firefighters and the National Disaster Response Force took seven hours to retrieve the bodies.

The seriousness of the incident is evident in the fact that the National Disaster Response Force has to be called for rescue. Also, considering the frequency of such incidents, one can know how serious the sanitation problem in Mumbai has become.

Eleven people have been killed in toilet-related accidents in Mumbai since 2013. If we look at the events in and around the main metropolis, the number increases to 16. Many have drowned in the abyss; At the same time, due to years of neglect, there are many cases of rupture of toilet tanks, leakage of methane gas, endangering the health of the people and even death of the people.

Such accidents happen so frequently in Mumbai that it has to be said that they are not just accidents but systematic crimes. However, neither the Slum Sanitation Center nor the BMC has taken any concrete action in this regard.

A total of 5 million slum dwellers in the city use 750 public toilets constructed by the World Bank-funded Slum Sanitation Center. There are a total of 26,379 toilets in Mumbai, which is a ratio of one toilet to 190 people. According to the World Health Organization, there should be one toilet for every 50 people. Without it, these people turn to 30,000 free toilets, paid toilets or open defecation every day, and the load increases.

Despite the stress on the toilets of the slum sanitation campaign, there is no doubt that the sanitation campaign is underway due to collective cooperation. It is very common for men and women to have long queues outside toilets. Many people have to walk long distances to get to the toilet. Often, addicts and gamblers roam around the toilets. Women and young girls are the victims. These people make vulgar and obscene remarks about them, as well as often physically and sexually abuse them. Tired of this daily grind, they go out for a day of daily cleaning activities and go to the dark places around them.

In 2016, a survey of public toilets conducted by the BMC under the Slum Cleanup Campaign found that 58 per cent of the toilets had no electricity, while 78 per cent had no water. As well as MHADA toilets; They were built entirely from the local area development funds of the corporators, MLAs and MPs, but no water or electricity was provided during the construction. These so-called, open toilets are very hazardous to use at night.

All paid toilets are run as a business. Toilet maintenance and service are neglected to achieve political and other selfish ends. The toilet business helps local politicians to expand their polls. These toilets are convenient for BMC and power distribution companies; This is because water and electricity bills can be easily recovered from these toilets. Because of all these arrangements, many slum dwellers have no choice but to go to open defecation, as not everyone can afford to go to paid toilets or refuse to use MHADA's dirty toilets.

Many organizations jump into the task of building and operating toilets; But the problem is compounded by the fact that they cannot handle the responsibility. Toilets are constructed by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, MHADA's Slum Prevention Committee, many private organizations like Sulabh International, as well as NGOs like SPARC and Pratha. But no one takes care of them. 

The group now includes the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). They have started construction of toilets in all municipal areas of the metropolis under 'Nirmal MMR Abhiyan' at a cost of Rs 300 crore.

Toilets have been built in millions of slums in the city to meet basic sanitation needs. With the increasing income, education and good lifestyle of the slum dwellers, the demand for healthy, efficient and low cost toilets is increasing.

The only solution to all these problems is the provision of personal toilets. Although each family will spend its own money for this, they face many problems and corruption. Engineers reject demands to build toilets without visiting the site, citing technical difficulties. As a result, the construction of personal toilets, despite being the main objective of the 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan' and the huge demand for personal toilets in Mumbai, has not been met. 

This is a contradictory situation even though Maharashtra is at the national level in terms of construction of personal toilets under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. As on November 2017, the government has constructed 42.47 lakh toilets, 64% of the target has been achieved.

Based on a survey conducted by ORF in the metropolis in February 2017, the report 'Jaye to Jaye Kaha - Finding answers to the problems of toilets in the metropolis' was published. If the government provides sewage disposal facilities, then 83% of the slum dwellers in the city are ready to build toilets without any financial help or subsidy. Are their demands unreasonable? Instead of denying permission on the grounds of technical problems caused by slum population, BMC should set up a new system for disposal of wastewater. The municipality, of course, can do this as a humanitarian work for workers who contribute to the growth of the city's economy.

This is possible only if the government takes some tough and politically unavoidable decisions:

Prohibit the use of MP, MLA and corporator funds for construction of toilets. Most of the toilets built by the people's representatives using people's money are for political gain and are in a very bad condition. There is a lot of corruption in this work.

The government needs to establish an authoritative and supreme sanitation department by reducing the dominance of sanitation initiatives run by agencies like MHADA and MMRDA along with BMC. All other toilet related organizations will work under that office. The Corporation needs to look into the planning, construction and maintenance of all categories of community and public sanitation facilities in Mumbai to create a transparent socio-private partnership.

To create a healthier city for all in Mumbai, this cleanliness will be useful, which the city urgently needs. The lack of clean and safe toilets in the city is not just a problem, it is a crime that must stop now.

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