Long live the Loos of India

Sorry guys here is more about loos and apologies for the 'illustration' but it has not been downloaded from the net but taken by one of our teachers. Poor man! He had to do this on a Sunday and told me that he could not eat a meal for the next two days. I will spare you the innards of the place but I have a collection of pictures that would make you gall.

 This picture was 'commissioned' by someone who wanted to make loos. He was spot on as everyone is vying for the title of the Loo King of India after our Prime Minister stated the urgency of making loos in his I Day Speech. Today two mega industrialists have pledged 100 crore each, that is one billion! I think I gagged more than my poor colleague. 200 crores are on their fast descent to waste. And I speak with confidence. What makes me choke more is that if someone placed 5 measly crores, the interest could run project why forever and we would do more than make loos.

In our capital city there are loos, believe it or not. There those for the poor like the ones in the picture that are often locked, like the one in the picture or so filthy that you can barely use them, more so as you have to dish out a rupee to do so.

Then there are the ones that were built for the Commonwealth Games but never got used. What you see is not a monument but the Defence Colony loo when it was being made. I do not think it has ever been used. It lies locked waiting for its first user. I believe they are under litigation and I guess will be totally unusable by the time the case is settled.

You may have also seen the new kid on the block: the bright red loos made by the  DIMTS, better known as the BRT gang. They are good looking but are often locked for reasons beyond comprehension. Delhi also has the horrid portable toilets and of course all the walls and open spaces available to 'relieve' ones self. All these have been made at some cost to the tax payer. It is time we asked for an audit before throwing crores to make more such useless structures.

The problem that arises is why these toilets that were at one time totally acceptable reach such a state. The mistakes we often make is 'think' we know what the 'other' wants. Girls need toilet in schools but they also need clean and safe toilets where they live. Why do we always decide for others and never ask them what they want and WHY things have gone wrong. I was myself surprised when a the mother of a teenager brushed aside my worry about safety when we were talking about the toilet in her area. She in the inimitable style of survivors told me that her brother could accompany her. What irked her most was the 1 rupee to be paid reach time. They are a family of 8 with one earning member. Do the maths. Think of how many times we use a loo in a day then multiply by 8 and then 30. It is a huge chunk of the 5 or 6000 the bread earner earns.

The main issue was all cleanliness. Beautiful structures are erected sometimes after international or national competition and then no one sits and thinks of how they will be maintained over the years as loos are needed as long as humans are there. Thinking that the 1 rupee per use will do the trick is ridiculous. A block of toilets needs water of course but cleaning implements, products and people who are given a proper salary. Toilets have to be cleaned almost after each use. But that is not the real solution. The real solution lies with the community taking ownership of the block and then all is well!

When we began our work in Okhla almost 8 years ago, the local mafia did not want us and thus they use to break our 'school' every week end. We simply rebuilt it every Monday and carried on. Today it is located in a flimsy structure that can be broken with a kick but no one touches it. We have expensive equipment that is safer than in a bank vault. The same has to be the case with community toilets which are a must as if the 'fashion' of everyone making some makeshift loo continues, it would be a disaster for the environment. That is why work like we do is important. You can make diamond studded loos but unless you make the community accept and respect them they will have the same fate as all the others.

So you can understand how I feel when I see 200 crores going down the drain as I struggle to keep project why afloat.