It's been two months since a public toilet was constructed at Vanichapada in Aarey Milk Colony, Goregaon, through the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) funds of cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar. But the toilets have yet to be opened to public, forcing tribals living in the 27 padas within the green cover for close to a century to defecate in the open.

Sachin Tendulkar commissioned the public toilet at Vanichapada
Sachin Tendulkar commissioned the public toilet at Vanichapada

The latter becomes an issue of life and death here since going in the open could lead to incidents involving human-leopard conflict.

The tribals also risk being bitten by venomous snakes. Shortage of street lights on the slim pathways winding through the padas makes matters worse after dark.

On May 1, this paper had reported that Rajya Sabha MP Sachin Tendulkar has decided to use his Local Area Development fund to help the long-neglected adivasi community of Aarey. He had commissioned the construction of footpaths and six toilets in the area across Vanichapada, Mataipada, Khambyachapada, Gavdevipada, Gitunichapada and Futkyatal-avachapada, distributing 500 solar lamps among the locals. A reporter from this paper had visited the under-construction toilet at Vanichapada at the time, and it was more than 80 per cent complete.

On Friday, when sunday mid-day visited the spot, the toilet was ready for use but closed to the tribals.

"The toilets were constructed so that locals staying within the pada don't have to use the old dilapidated toilets or go out in the open. The monsoons have only made things worse," says a resident.

The Chief Engineer (projects), PWD Mumbai, Mukund Murkutkar, said, "I had a word with my officials and have been told that the civil work, which was our responsibility, is complete. The reason it hasn't been opened for use is because water hasn't been made available for the overhead tanks. Once we manage to get a water connection from the concerned department (the Aarey Dairy CEO office or the BMC), we will open the toilet."

"The toilet is connected to the sewer line. That should be enough for us to use it. We carry our own water to the toilet anyway," argued Chandu Jadhav, a resident of Vanichapada.