Funds have not been allotted for operation and maintenance of public and community toilets

K. Raju, a 35-year-old a vegetable vendor living in a rented house on Mysore Road, says that he works to earn money for two square meals a day. “I cannot even dream of building my own house in this city,” he says.

Ask him if his house has a toilet, and he says it is the last of his worries. But when the same question was put to his wife R. Radhika, she grumbles. She told The Hindu how difficult it is to manage without a toilet in the house. She has to either walk to the public toilet, which is at least a kilometre away, or waits until she reaches K.R. Market, her workplace, where she can use the public toilet paying Rs. 5.

The 2011 Census data reveals that Radhika is not alone. It shows that 1.23 lakh of the 23.77 lakh households in Bangalore do not have toilets on their premises. However, the data shows that over the last decade the number of households without latrines has declined from 14.7 per cent to 5.2 per cent.

Government schemes to provide sanitation facilities for the urban poor have been inadequate. Under the Integrated Low Cost Sanitation Scheme, only 7,513 toilets have been constructed in urban areas across the State over the past three years, sources in the Directorate of Municipal Administration said. Figures for Bangalore were not made available.

Under this scheme, the government constructs new toilets or converts existing dry latrines into low-cost latrines. The Union government bears 75 per cent of the cost, the State government subsidises 15 per cent of it, and the remaining must be borne by the beneficiary.

The scheme caps the cost per latrine at Rs. 10,000. A Department of Municipal Administration official said that the task of constructing a toilet was indeed a “challenge”. However, the lack of awareness about the scheme and inadequate spaces were hindrances.

Women most affected

These space constraints have forced many poor families to depend on community and public toilets. Gowramma (55), a vegetable vendor near K.R. Market, said that she is forced to control her bladder throughout her business hours. For, all the community and public toilets are in a shambles and rendered unusable.

Responding to this, an engineer in the Department of Municipal Administration said, “The public and community toilets are poorly maintained as there are no funds allotted for operation and maintenance. The cost has to be borne by the municipal corporations as a result of which they are poorly maintained.”

Health-sanitation link

Public health expert B.S. Triveni said that poor sanitation could lead to various water-borne diseases. “It is also one of the primary causes of gastroenteritis,” she said.

Apart from that, she stated, parasitic infection can lead to internal bleeding and anaemia. “Poor and unhygienic sanitation can led to urinary tract infection among women, and those who use public or community toilets regularly are prone to this,” she added.

Toilets at workplace

While the economically weaker sections of society continue to struggle without toilets in their houses, working professionals state that lack of toilets in and around their workplace continues to pose a challenge for them. Prabha S., who works in a mechanical industry in Peenya, said, “At times, I cannot relieve myself for hours together as there is no toilet at my workplace. I do not drink water at work as I want to avoid using the toilet there.”

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