At the Chennai Central Station, it is not unusual to find people using the premises as a public toilet. One of the reasons? The woefully inadequate number of toilets at the city’s railway stations.
“Many people resort to urinating in public not only because the few toilets available are overcrowded, but also because they are badly maintained and unhygienic. I have never used the toilets at stations because I am afraid of contracting a disease,” said M. Monisha, a frequent commuter at Central.
Central Station has nearly 3 lakh people passing through it everyday, but only 10 latrines cater to them, a senior official of Southern Railway said.
“When I visit the station, I always see long queues outside the toilets. “Since a large number of people use the facility, it invariably becomes dirty. Also, there is no other public toilet near the station, so people throng this one. However, railway officials do visit the station and check on the upkeep of the toilets,” the official said.
The maintenance of these ‘pay and use’ toilets — whose charges vary depending on the station they are located in — are usually given to private firms on a contract basis for a fixed period, he added.
While the toilets of Central may be of less than desirable standards, several stations in the city do not even have toilets. At Nungambakkam, Chromepet and St. Thomas Mount, there are no public toilets, while those in Guindy and Mambalam are not accessible, said V. Subramani of Traffic and Transportation Forum.
“One of the biggest necessities for commuters here is easy access to clean toilets,” he said.
S. Ramkumar, 40, who travels from Nungambakkam to St. Thomas Mount said, “Not only do some stations lack this essential facility, the few that have it are also cut off from the centre of the station forcing users to take a long detour.”