As expected, President Ramnath Kovind declaration of the urban areas of the state as Open Defecation Free (ODF) is gaining plenty of traction everywhere. Citizens lost no time in scoffing at these claims - and rightly so - by posting pictures that show the ground reality. Indeed, this issue has proved fertile for opinions and much mirth and mayhem on social media.
But while these claims will be looked on as suspect, it is important that we concentrate on what's at the heart of the matter - giving people maximum access to toilets.
There can be no more excuses for disrepair and locked toilet blocks. Some time ago, a look at toilets at railway stations showed us that several were simply locked or unusable for no apparent reason. Many had fallen into disrepair with different authorities playing the blame game. A huge toilet block in Mahim, where 46 loos had been kept locked for 12 years because of a faulty drainage system. In other instances, we see altercations between the local area management and civic authorities about the location of public toilets.
Officials know that taxpayers' money has been used to construct toilet blocks and it is only fair that once inaugurated, they should be made accessible to the public as soon as possible, rather than remain defunct. Making the city open defecation-free is an important facet of the Swachch Bharat mission, and the only way to achieve this is by making enough public toilets.
It is healthy to view unfounded claims with scepticism, but we must also do our bit and make an effort. It starts with keeping our surroundings clean. Anybody can scoff and mock on social media, but the only way to make a real difference is to participate in the Swachchta campaign ourselves. Every small drop of effort will help to wash the city clean.
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