Nagpur: A group of plucky women marched and "captured" a men's public toilet on the eve of International Women's Day Wednesday to highlight the abysmal lack of sanitation for women not just in this Maharashtra town but also in the rest of India.
"Around 30 women took out a symbolic protest march and laid a brief, token siege to a men's toilet outside Nagpur railway station. Our purpose was not to inconvenience the men, but focus on the problems women face without toilets whenever they step out of their homes," coordinator with the Sahyog Trust and lawyer Smita Sarode-Singalkar told IANS.
The protest, with a token police presence, passed off peacefully and many amused morning commuters even stopped by to express their support to the unusual initiative.
Nagpur city has a total of only 113 public toilet blocks, 68 FRP (fibre-make) toilets and another 69 latrines, which are grossly insufficient for the people, especially women who venture outdoors, Smita said. The city, as per Census 2011, has a population of 2.50 million.
"As per World Health Organisation norms, there should be at least one toilet per 100 people, in Nagpur the ratio is a shocking one toilet per 8,000. The Nagpur Municipal Corporation's budget run into hundreds of crores rupees each year, but no attention is paid to this very basic requirements of the citizens and women," Smita pointed out.
Explaining the miserable state of the public toilets, she said that a recent survey found them to be messy, lacking water supply, stinking and overflowing with no routine maintenance or care despite huge contracts given to private contractors.
"In fact, we have found that most women shun eating or drinking much when they go outside to avoid the urge to go to these kind of public toilets. Consequently, many suffer from various minor or major ailments on account of postponing their natural urges," Smita claimed.
In downmarket or slum areas, the designated public toilets are so dirty that women relieve themselves in open grounds before daybreak or after dark since people are around during daytime, she said.
The survey revealed that 70 percent of people in Nagpur have no access to a proper toilet and women are the worst sufferers due to the insensitive attitude of the government.
"Our today's protest is to highlight this serious issue not only before the NMC but the rest of the state and country to take steps and improve the public toilet facilities in India," Smita added.