ANANTNAG: While much is being said about the implementation of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in the state, most major townships in south Kashmir do not have public lavatories.
The absence of public conveniences has become a source of inconvenience to people, particularly to women.
In Anantnag, the biggest and most-populated town in Kashmir after Srinagar city, there is only one public toilet for men in the General Bus Stand area.
While the Municipal Committee Anantnag has been constructing a new public toilet on ‘modern lines’ for both men and women near the Truck Yard in the Bus Stand area and within the district hospital premises, the other busy market places have no such facility.
Even the district’s business hub Lal chowk, busy Mattan chowk, and around 10 km-long KP road don’t have public conveniences.
Similarly in Pulwama town, the only public convenience—for men—is located near the General Bus Stand. Elsewhere in the town, there are no public conveniences for men or women.
In Kulgam district headquarters, there is not even a single public toilet.
The local Municipal Committee had, some years back, constructed one in old General Bus Stand, but the facility remains defunct. Other major and busy townships of Kalgan too are without the facility, much to the inconvenience of public.
With people, particularly women, suffering, civil society members have started to question the implementation of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
“Providing toilets to individuals who defecate in open due to the unavailability of the facility at their homes is okay, but to achieve the objective of the scheme, the authorities must build community and cluster toilets in busy townships,” spokesman of South Kashmir Civil Society (SKCS), Farman Rao, said.
General Secretary of the body, Zafar Salati, said thousands of people including shoppers, patients, employees and students enter the district headquarters every day, but the authorities don’t bother to construct public toilets for their use.
“While the men use toilets constructed near Masjids or restaurants, the women have to be silent sufferers. At least five to seven veiled women enter my office in the industrial area for using washroom,” Salati said.
A social activist from Pulwama Idries Ahmad said the Swach Bharat Abhiyan will only prove to be a boon for the officials.
“There are several components in the scheme including community toilets, cluster toilets, and individual household toilets. But you will see the officials of local bodies focusing on household toilets alone, as the construction of community toilets is not going to benefit them,” Ahmad said.
Officials of the municipal committees of several townships blame it on the dearth of free space for constructing lavatories.
“We had some little space available in Rajapora chowk, and we have floated tenders for construction of public toilet there. We don’t have any space available elsewhere to build separate toilets for women,” an official of the municipal committee Pulwama said.
Director local bodies, Kashmir, Tufail Matoo, admitted that major urban centres lack public toilets, but blamed the people for it.
“Money is no issue now, as the same has started coming under Swach Bharat Abhiyan. But we don’t have space available in townships for construction of public toilets and where ever we find some space, the people residing nearby create hindrances,” he said.
He, however, said that they have identified sites in various townships for building community toilets for both men and women.