Clean & healthy
The Delhi Municipal Corporation, in a bid to contribute to the anniversary celebrations of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, has begun a large-scale movement to build public toilets across locations in the National capital. Undoubtedly, a welcome move, it comes with questions being raised about the efficacy of the new cleanliness drive. The constructions aim to fulfil Prime Minister Narendra Modi's drive to ensure a society that is open defecation free, yet building toilets which are ineptly maintained does little to fulfil this goal. The new toilets which are being built, it has been noticed, are located close to existing facilities which sadly, witness very few visitors. Building new establishments only about 50 metres away from the already constructed ones does not entirely battle the problem of open defecation. Residents across jhuggis in the city are still habituated to using streets, railway lines or deserted shrubs to answer nature's call. While the pervading mentality still poses a considerable barrier to fulfil the goal of creating an open defecation free India, what is an even more imminent threat is the lack of management which sees these toilets restricted to being visited by only a handful. A noxious scent, unclean cubicles and improper drainage facilities still hinder the probability of a perfectly clean and hygienic environment. When the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was introduced, it came as a breath of fresh air to many who had negated the possibility of achieving clean, fresh public spaces, which would be elevated from the shroud of filth and rampant bacterial incubation. India's image in the West from being the exotic land of spices and heritage has over the years shifted to being remembered as a society with rampant illiteracy, pollution and of course, poverty. The mountains and valleys of Kashmir or the seas of Kanyakumari are quickly forgotten in the unhygienic environment that is impossible to ignore in the towns and cities of our country. Public defecation has been a serious threat to public health and sanitation. It not only pollutes the environment but ultimately it is a sign of complete regression. As we develop to being a digital country with cellular facilities for even the most marginalised, the emphasis on basic necessities must not be lost. Until our population has been taught and provided access to established spaces of defecation, reaching facebook to the farmer in the green fields of Haryana would be quite contrary to any ideal of progression. The Delhi municipality Corporation has begun a wholehearted drive to build toilets across locations. It is undeniably an important step towards developing a modern day city, yet, what is more important and often lost before it sees the end of the day, is the maintenance and planning that is essential to stabilise these projects. Shopkeepers in the vicinity of New Delhi Railway Station have complained that these units are often architecturally faulty, creating unstable structures which crack and wear off sooner than they should. There are now six toilets in the New Delhi Railway Station area, some barely a few steps away from one another. However, none of these units are utilised by residents who complain that the toilets are inadequately maintained. There is often a shortage of water and the stench never fades. Naturally then, the idea of being subjected to the everyday torture of holding one's breath while answering nature's call isn't preferred by any citizen. The outside world then becomes a better option where defecating isn't complemented by disgust. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has been a successful initiative, where one-third of India's villages have been made open-defecation free, and nearly 30 per cent more civilians have access to safe sanitation, compared to three years ago. Yet, while toilets are rampantly built, little is still being done to ensure that these toilets function efficiently. The Municipality then has a greater role to play than the Prime Minister. The vision can come from the Chair, but its implementation must be acted out by the hands that are regularly engaging with the citizens in their everyday lives. Local level governance bodies play the most crucial role in bridging the glaring gap between policy-making and policy implementation. The enthusiasm that municipalities display while fulfilling targets prescribed on paper must translate to them fulfilling their goals on the ground, by reaching out the people, making them aware of facilities while also endeavouring to ensure that these are maintained, providing quality access to all. A half-hearted shabby facility does little to reflect on the quality of a democracy. The Delhi Municipal Corporation has surely taken a laudable initiative, however, to see the success of its implementation more effort has to be made to manage projects with care and efficiency. Citizens of a democracy deserve more out of the tax that is paid to ensure societal well-being.