A month after President Ramnath Kovind declared urban Maharashtra as defecation free, the Committee of Resource Organisations (CORO), an NGO, launched a campaign on Friday challenging the government’s claim.
The campaign, CORO-Righ To Pee, will focus on the issue of lack of clean and safe community toilets for women in Mumbai. On November 19, CORO’s Right To Pee campaign activists will approach Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on the occasion of World Toilet Day and show him a collage of open defecation spots in Mumbai, which is being created as part of the campaign.
Supriya Sonar, a Right to Pee activist, said: “The campaign was initiated in 2011. We don’t believe in the concept of being benefited, we are not asking for any kind of benefits here. This is something that is our right as a human being.”
Ms. Sonar said that they did not aim to focus on statistics of the number of toilets built that is being used to promote the Swacch Bhaarat Abhiyan. They instead want to bring to light the stories of women and children in slums who face harassment or threats to their safety owing to lack of safe and clean toilets. Ms. Sonar said that residents had to spend more money than they earned to use the community toilets.
Shabnam Quereshi, a resident of Bhiwandi, said, “Most of the community toilets are closed. The ones that remain open have no facilities. We cannot expose our children to such unhygienic places. It is especially difficult to use the toilets during the night as there is no electricity. We are also afraid of being robbed, physically abused and harassed.
Ms. Qureshi said that a few community toilets were shut after midnight and women and children are forced to relieve themselves in the open. “We have faced harassment from men who are drunk. Our children are also beaten up by them. We cannot bear see that.” A statement issued by the CORO-Right to Pee campaign said that some community toilets were not even equipped with doors.
Ms. Sonar said, “This is a matter of the weak structure of the toilets. They can collapse anytime.” She said that public toilets were either shut down or partially constructed in areas such as Shivajinagar, Rafiq Nagar and Vashi Naka.
Ms. Sonar said, “There are also toilets which have been under construction for eight years now. So there is no sanitation and electricity. The path leading to the toilets is full of filth. Women and children who are forced to defecate in the open often end up being victims of rape or molestation. These incidents are never reported to the police.”