Today, November 19, the world marks Toilet Day. That the world needs a Toilet Day may seem ludicrous to some, but it highlights the importance of hygiene and throws the spotlight on how so much of the world still has no access to this most basic of sanitation facilities.

The world is a broad canvas, but when one narrows down the focus to Mumbai, the importance of marking a day for toilets becomes a subject of vital importance here. A city that is bursting at the seams but simply has too few toilets in public places. Newspapers regularly carry reports about the unsanitary conditions of toilets on railway platforms, for instance. There have also reports about how women’s toilets on several railway platforms had been locked without anybody attributing a reason for this. This effectively cut off access to the toilets, depriving women of a fundamental right.

Time and again, activists have stressed initiatives in rural belts to build toilets for women. This was the one contributing factor they explained, that improved the lives of women in these areas. While toilets may be taken for granted in cities, this is not so in rural areas, where women have to go in the open.

Yet in Mumbai too, how many times have we seen people relieving themselves in the open, contributing to the dirt and disease? People too, need to have civic sense and from a young age, it should be ingrained in them that the city’s walls and pavements are not their toilets.

Our highways too need adequate, clean restroom facilities. A trip from Mumbai to Lonavla or Pune may be filled with tension, simply because there may be inadequate toilets or unusable ones.

People who are ailing, the elderly especially, need better toilet infrastructure, particularly on long trips. As we build better connectivity from Mumbai, let us pay attention to the restrooms too. People too need to use public toilets with decency, respect for others and responsibility. Make toilets a priority issue.