Loos loos everywhere but not one that I can use

This is the state of one of the numerous toilet block built over the years in our capital city. I have very graphic pictures that I chose not to use as they are revolting to say the least. The reason I write this blog is subsequent to yet another speech of our Prime Minister where he urged NRIs ( non resident Indians) to build loos in their place of origin. He has also exhorted big business to make loos their CSR mantra. Whereas I am all for loos, I cannot but shudder at the thought of what they may all become if the programme does not have an in built sustainability component, in other words adequate funds to pay staff, buy cleaning material, maintain the building on a regular basis and that ad infinitum. Hence the loos should be able to 'raise' funds in some way of the other.

A few months back an NRI had shown interest in building toilets and asked my humble opinion. That is when my staff and I went on a loo visit in the slums were we work and this had been an eye opener. I had shared my views about the matter in this blog. What we found out was that most of the toilet blocks we visited were in a sorry state not because of the fault in design or even quality but because no one had given adequate thought to how they would be maintained. The poop story needs to be heard.

It is no wonder that the maintenance is so poor. We met the man in 'charge'. A tired looking thin man who seemed to carry the burden of the world on his frail shoulders. In seems that the blocks are built on a supposedly and ludicrous sustainable model as the in charge only gets to keep the money collected from usage 1 to 2 rupees. In that he has not only to feed hid family but keep the loos clean. He is given nothing: no broom, no pail, no disinfectant, no floor cleaner, no soap- nothing! Normally it is a jet of water, if water there is, that is meant to do the job. No only that, not all people pay. Some get so violent that the poor man has been beaten more than once. A woman goon even slaps him every night as he refused to pay her a 20 rs a day commission. On a good day he makes 150 rupees. Such a model is doomed to fail.

My fear is having loos doting the country that will find the same outcome. I do hope that someone will think about this before it is too late a nd millions and millions of rupees have gone to waste.

What we need is not only to build loos but raise awareness about the dangers of open defecation and above all have communities take ownership of the toilets that are built. Unless we do that, the loo sag may well become a tragedy.