It is laughable that BMC continues to claim that it will build toilets and make Mumbai free of open defecation by 2019, especially after mid-day highlighted how the civic body had kept a huge toilet block in Mahim locked for 12 years, leaving people with no option but to relieve themselves in the open.

The toilet block, with 46 loos, was the only one located near the popular Maharashtra Nature Park, and as such, could have served the needs of local residents and visitors to the park, which has no toilets inside. According to the BMC, however, they could not open the toilet block because of a faulty drainage system. One is simply astonished that it can take more than a decade for somebody to find the will to fix a mere drainage problem. We are quite certain that BMC would have maintained the status quo if the issue had not been brought to light via this paper’s front-page report.

As expected, there was much waffling when officials were asked the reason as to why the problem was not fixed. Their answers ranged from claiming ignorance to stating that the problem was now being dealt with. We hope our officials remember that taxpayers’ money was used to construct this toilet, and it is only fair that it be made accessible to the public.

Such apathy is simply inexcusable when this city is struggling with a public toilet crunch. But it’s hardly the first time. Some of our toilets in public facilities like railway stations continue to be locked for inexplicable reasons. Others are malfunctioning or unusable for some or the other reason. We would like to think that with the new thrust of Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan, sanitation and hygiene takes priority. Loos for the public are essential when it comes to this aspect. In the past, we have seen unnecessary altercations and debates over toilets. The BMC had spent Rs 16 lakh on constructing this particular toilet block all those years ago. It is a shame that officials have to be prodded into cutting through this unnecessary red tape over such a basic need. Smart cities? Let’s have basics in place first.