Nod for 30 more e-toilets; each to cost Rs. 6.9 lakh

Often branded as cultural misfits and user-unfriendly, public electronic toilets for women in the State are set to stage a revival.

Regardless of the criticism, the government has decided to pump in Rs. 2.14 crore to install ‘Eves own e-toilets’, a public convenience exclusively for women, in three major cities of the State – Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode.

A government order issued by the Public Works Department (PWD) this New Year eve shows that 30 new e-toilets would be installed in the three cities with “certain changes for the execution and maintenance”.

Each of these toilets would cost the government an estimated Rs. 6.9 lakh.

The government’s push to shake off the jinx comes at a time when 13 of the 15 e-toilets installed in the limits of the Kozhikode Corporation itself lies in a sorry state. They have either been damaged by miscreants, are rarely used by women and left to rust.

This is when Kozhikode was the first city in the State to introduce e-toilets. The first toilet was installed at Oyitty Road.

These e-toilets were established here following an order issued by the Ombudsman for Local Bodies on a petition filed by Dr K.S. Jayasree, general secretary-Sthree Chetana in 2010. The petition had sought the Ombudsman’s intervention to solve the problems facing visitors to the city, particularly working women, due to lack of enough public toilets.

Following the Ombudsman’s directive, Kozhikode Corporation set up 15 e-toilets — two each at stadium, Muthklakulam, and Devagiri, and one each at lorry stand, near Head Post Office, Oyitty Road, Pavangad, Karaparamba, Medical college, Cheruvannur, Beypore, and the beach.

But there were few takers among women.

Women who have used the toilets complain that the green light, signalling that the toilet was ready to use, was often damaged.

Some women were apprehensive about getting stuck in it while some feared hidden cameras.

Some complain that the toilets are placed in spots too public for comfort.

But activists like Dr. Jayasree feel that the initial hitch would have been mainly due to slow acceptance of new technology.

They say that lack of awareness may be the reason for the lesser use of e-toilets, an essential infrastructure to nurture healthy toilet habits.

“Instead of dubbing them a failure and waste of money, why can’t we ensure that the toilets are functioning properly and are user-friendly?” Dr. Jayasree asks.

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