Local commuters are well aware of the thick wafts of stench assaulting them when they step anywhere near the toilets at the city’s railway stations. And they are wondering why, despite BMC and railway guidelines dictating otherwise, they are being charged for using the urinals.
According to a BMC circular dated April 30, 2011 from the solid waste management department, no public toilet should charge for urinals. The railway rule book also says that the use of urinals, for both men and women, must be free, though for toilets, a charge of Rs 2 may be collected.
But contractors have been charging between Rs 2 and Rs 5 for urinals as well as toilets at the city’s railways stations.
There have been demands from commuter associations as well as legislators to provide clean toilets at no cost. In the month of October, some MPs had met with the Central Railway general manager Subodh Jain and presented the demand.
MiD DAY’s visit to a few stations confirmed the violation, and the nausea-inducing state the toilets are in.
A grim survey revealed that for the 70 lakh railway passengers on the central, western and harbour lines, there are 355 toilet seats and 673 urinals. As such, a long queue outside the lavatories at major stations is unavoidable if one wants to use the facility. And despite the illegally collected charges, the toilets are no cleaner. Passengers cover their noses while using the loo.
‘Pay and use’
At Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the lady attendant sitting in front of the toilet door doesn’t allow passengers unless they have paid up Rs 3. She is not bothered when the passengers tell her they do not want to use the toilet, but only the urinal. There’s no entry until one shells out the charge.
“Teen rupaya deke hi ander jane ka. Humko kya pata ander kya karne ka hai. Saaf safai bhi karne ka hota hai na,” she said, when this reporter enquired her 0of the charges.
Sheetal Pai, a clerk in Fort who commutes to and from CST, said, “I have to use this toilet every day as my office toilet is dirtier than this. She (the attendant) knows me by face but without taking Rs 2 she doesn’t allow me inside. The railways should scrap the charges, as it is supposed to provide this facility to its commuters.”
Pai said she had made several complaints to the authorities but their responses that action would be taken were not followed up.
GM Subodh Jain said, “We have not got any complaints. If there are any, they will be acted upon.”
The stink surrounding Churchgate station toilet was unbearable when this reporter visited it, but the four female attendants sitting and chatting near it seemed not to notice. They had made a young girl sit outside to collect of Rs 2 from commuters for using urinals and toilets.
Passers-by told this reporter that sometimes, the attendants ask for Rs 5 for entering the toilet. “Why are we made to pay when the facility is supposed to be free? Can the Western Railway officers at Churchgate station not see that the the contractors are looting passengers every day.”
Sharat Chandrayan, chief public relations officer, WR, said, “We will check if such an amount is being charged and take action.”
The state of public toilets elsewhere is no better. While the BMC has instructed organisations managing public toilets to build ramps and hand railings around the toilet, and set up western commodes for senior citizens and the handicapped, no toilet has these.
The city has a total of 2,849 public toilets. MiD DAY’s visit to a few bore these facts out. Charges for urinals are levied at some of these. Sometimes, in blatant contravention of rules, a board put up on the wall informs commuters that they have to pay before using the amenity.
“Charging for urinals is illegal and we will take action against the erring parties,” said Prakash Patil, deputy municipal commissioner.
The attendant at a public toilet near BMC’s new children’s park at Bhulabhai Desai Road said they charge money because they don’t use BMC’s water. “We buy tanker water so we are allowed to charge for urinal,” the attendant said.
“Whether they buy water or use tap water, they should not charge for urinals. That is a pre-condition as per their agreement with the BMC,” said Patil.
To avoid commercial exploitation of public toilets, the BMC conservancy staff union leader Arvind Boricha, who is also president of the Mumbai Safai Karmachari Utkarsha Samittee, demanded that the BMC should allow conservancy staff to operate public toilets in the city.
The number of public toilets in the city