With bright yellow exterior walls and colourful murals inside, a community toilet complex in the densely-packed Nizamuddin basti shows the way for public conveniences in the Capital.
The airy complex has 12 stalls each for women and men, with an additional two stalls that have lower fixtures and doors for children. The spotless facility also has 10 bathing cubicles and courtyards for washing clothes.
Announcements constantly playing on the public address system remind users to keep the facility clean. Around 1,000 people use the facilities everyday, with the number going up to 3,000 when pilgrims descend on the nearby Nizamuddin dargah .
Its costs Rs.2 to use the toilets, Rs.5 for washing clothes and Rs.10 to use the entire complex. The facility is owned by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, but was upgraded in 2013 and is run by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the Trust, the Archaeological Survey of India and the Central Public Works Department in 2007 to revive and conserve the heritage-rich Nizamuddin area. At the time the project was started, 19 per cent of the families in Nizamuddin basti were found living without “home toilets”.
“You won’t find a better public toilet in Delhi,” said Nizamuddin Councillor Farhad Suri, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the SDMC.
The complex is the larger of two that are managed by the Trust with the help of an 11-member community group. With Muharram and Urs round the corner, the group is getting ready to manage the crowds that will descend on the basti and the toilets.
On Saturday afternoon, the group had its monthly meeting and decided that one member will be on duty at all hours to manage the collection at the entry. Member Sajrul also works as manager at the toilet complex from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., apart from working as domestic cook.
“We had to convince people to pay. There were fights in the beginning, when we started last October. But, now it’s mostly smooth. Problems only crop up occasionally,” she added.
Sajrul added that she doesn’t allow smokers inside the facility. “I tell people to throw their cigarettes outside or I fine them,” said Sajrul, cutting an authoritative figure despite her polite demeanour.
An official of the Trust said the facility had been made at a cost of Rs.40 lakh and cost about Rs.50,000 to maintain it everyday. The SDMC does not pitch in with funds, so 60 per cent of the expenditure is met by the income generated and the rest is borne by the Trust.