Earlier this year Ms.Kanthi Kanan founder of the Right to Walk Foundation filed a petition to the National Women’s Commission and the Andhra Pradesh State Human Rights Commission stating that Peeing in public is equivalent to stripping in public and it should be made a punishable offence.
The Government has not yet acted on it. And wisely so. As it can’t forbid people from peeing in public till it has provided public toilets. Civic infrastructure has to precede civic laws. And while planning civic amenities one should not only keep historic behavioural precedents but also the advances in civic facilities in other communities.
Let us first take a look at our behaviour in this regard. Rural India pees in public differently than urban India.
Men sit and pee in the countryside. Sitting down is a more modest way. It is the rural way. Rural folk also prefer this mode of voiding as the country side is more dusty and there are more chances of the splash coming on to them and soiling their clothes if they were to do it standing.
Urban men on the other hand stand while peeing in public. Gurgaon has urbanized so most men have risen. You will see them relieving themselves against walls, against trees and when these covers are not available then in full view. And our city is the emblem of corporate India before the global economic community! The silver lining is that the MCG is waking up. And that is really good. It has promised 12 new public toilets.
But will just providing the toilets be enough. Education on how to use these is also required. Even urinal usage needs to be taught. It has been taught in other countries.
Even today there is a raging debate in Europe on whether while using a commode to take a leak men should sit or stand.
The liberated women in Paris and Berlin and Amsterdam carry placards showing a huge red X scrawled across a man standing to urinate. They shout: Drop your trousers and sit. Keep your drips to yourself. ”Not another filthy puddle on MY bathroom floor”.
From the hygiene point of view their argument seems to hold water. No one enjoys stepping in a puddle of urine. Puddles make toilets unusable by others. Large puddles and overloaded, unflushed commodes are the main reasons why most public toilets in India have been abandoned by the public.
Keeping this broad History and the latest best practices in mind what should Gurgaon do:
1. The announcement of the MCG that it will bring 12 new public toilets is welcome. We must ask for a time frame for it.
2. If these can be multi storied so much the better. The upper floors can be opened as demand swells. Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of Sulabh says when you offer clean toilets demand just balloons. So much so that even a minute post your entering the cubicle for the big job the people waiting in the queue start pounding on your door saying, Takiya bhijwa de kya (Shall we send a pillow for you?- Have you slept?) The additional finances for building this capacity as well as maintaining it can come from advertising on wall exteriors. Toilet interiors should display pictograms educating the public about toilet use. Dr. Pathak also says that first time users have some time defaecated on the floor around the commode thinking that the spic and span commode could not be meant for deafaecation.
3. Each toilet should have a full time toilet attendant. Take a look at any unattended toilet provided by Delhi Metro outside the Metro stations and you will know why supervision is required. This was the case in all countries. Hygiene was ordered. Even Europe was sanitized and civilized through Police Decrees.
4. The maintenance protocol should be set and strongly implemented
5. Ladies toilets should be separated from Men’s but located in the same facility and there should be a modern bin-tailor made for disposing off sanitary pads in each unit. Vinay Ruparel, MD, Best Practice Wash Room has offered to provide female hygiene bins (special non- touch dispensers for sanitary pads) at cost and is willing to have his cost sheets scrutinized. Both he & Dr. Pathak are willing to provide their expertise- acquired over many years- for free. And there is no catch in it. People want to do for the cause of cleanliness. The MCG should co opt them.
6. Government magazines like Haryana Samvad, Krishi Samvad, Haryana Review other popular media vehicles should educate the people on how to use toilets. TOI and all other media should chip in. The state education board should make Toilet use training a compulsory part of primary education.
Gandhiji, some time before his demise said, “I should have fought for cleanliness rather than independence”. Let us begin the task he had to leave undone from Gurgaon. Let Gurgaon be the Champaran of cleanliness.