That the lack of proper public toilets is a big issue in this city has been quite well known for some time now. It was thus gladdening to see senior leaders like Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and Shaina NC talk about the pressing need to build more public toilets and keep them well maintained.
But just when it looked like various agencies were taking up sanitation as a serious issue under political pressure, come the first worrying signs that authorities may be paying mere lip service when it comes to the issue.
This paper today reported how the railways is now saying that running trains, and not building toilets, is its main job. This follows a meeting between Prabhu and Shaina NC — who has been writing in detail about the issue in an exclusive web series for this paper.
Prabhu promised that the railways would take up the issue on a war footing. Even during a recent visit, he instructed officials to ensure that toilets in railway premises are properly maintained.
Just when things looked promising, railway officials now seem to be backing out. They have said that while they do not mind building more toilets, maintaining them would be a problem. They have told BMC officials that any new toilet that will be built has to be at least 100 metres from station premises. Their excuse? Toilets will encroach upon walking space.
Such an attitude clearly shows that officials are not interested in solving one of the most pressing problems faced by citizens in general, and commuters in particular. This, especially after the lack of toilets in stations was the single biggest complaint aired by commuters to the Minister during his visit.
This is also the time for elected representatives to step in and hold officials accountable. If they can’t achieve this much, all the big claims of making life easier for the commuter — both by political leaders and officials — fall flat.