Municipalities interested in building individual toilets, not community ones, say angry residents
Budgam: At a time when crores were released in 2017 for the construction of public toilets in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district, most major townships do not have public lavatories as on date.
The absence of public conveniences is a major source of inconvenience to people, particularly to women-folk.
Budgam is the nearest district to capital city Srinagar, but there is only one public toilet in the Budgam town General Bus Stand area, and that too only for men.
Another was constructed a decade back near the Deputy Commissioner’s office but it has been locked for the last few years.
Municipal Committee officials in several townships blame the situation on the dearth of free space for constructing lavatories in the towns. In Chadoora town, Sub-District Magistrate Shabeer-ul-Hasan admitted the lack of public conveniences and said that the main reason was the lack of space for the construction of toilet points in the town.
“Places for the construction of facilities were identified many times, but the people who live nearby did not allowed us to construct them,” he said.
In Beerwah town, the Municipal Committee claimed it had constructed a new public toilet on ‘modern lines’ for both men and women near the Sub-district Hospital; however, other busy market places have no such facility.
In the Beerwah main market, a toilet point exists, but people prefer to remain away from it because of its foul smell and because the toilet is nowadays blocked.
“Providing toilets to individuals who defecate in the open due to the unavailability of the facility in their homes is okay, but to achieve the objective of the scheme, the authorities must build community and cluster toilets in busy townships,” said Abdul Lateef, president Masjid Committee, Beerwah.
He said that it is unfortunate that thousands of people, including shoppers, patients, employees and students, enter the Masjids and the shopkeepers’ toilets every day, but the authorities don’t bother to construct toilets for the general public’s use in the town.
“While men use toilets constructed near Masjids or restaurants, women have to be silent sufferers. At least five to seven veiled women enter my office in the industrial area for using the washroom.” Similarly in Magam town, the only public convenience is again only for men and is located near the General Bus Stand. Elsewhere in the town, there are no public conveniences either for men or for women.
The local Municipal Committee had, some years back, constructed one in old General Bus Stand, but the facility is defunct as of now because the toilet was never repaired once it stopped working some time ago.
All the towns of Budgam, some of them major, busy townships, lack public conveniences. People from different walks of life have begun to raise questions over the implementation of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in the district.
“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,” Budgam resident Muneer Ahmad Shah said.
“For every municipal ward, Rs 65 lakh was released for the construction of four to five toilets, but till date nothing has been done. If anything has been done, it is negligible,” he said.