When it comes to snatching the pedestrians’ right of way, everything is fair game — even their exclusive space. In its zeal to provide citizens in Andheri — one of the most congested areas in the city — access to more public amenities, the K-East ward of the BMC has begun constructing an air-conditioned toilet outside the railway station. But it has made a singular cardinal mistake: the plan isn’t well thought-out. The toilet is being erected right on the footpath outside the station, forcing pedestrians to take the road, instead.
Pedestrians spill over to the road as the footpath is blocked by an under-construction public toilet outside the Andheri railway station. Pics/Prabhanjan Dhanu
Citizens and activists are raising questions over the utilitarian of the new amenity since a public convenience already exists diagonally opposite the construction site.
The new toilet is coming up diagonally opposite an existing one
The BMC’s plan is also at odds with its massive city-wide drive against eateries, hawkers and commercial establishments encroaching on pavements.
Santosh Ghag, a chartered accountant, echoes the citizens’ frustration. “The BMC’s job is to keep footpaths free of encroachments. But, the civic body itself is violating rules by constructing a toilet that restricts the movement of pedestrians. Sure, there is a need for more toilets, especially for senior citizens and women. But in this case, we are not objecting to the idea, but the location of the toilet,” he points out.
Action for Good Governance in India (AGNI), an NGO working for good governance in Mumbai, questions the need for an air-conditioned toilet, besides the chosen location. “The BMC’s action is no different from that of the encroachers. As per the law, criminal action should be initiated against those involved in the process of granting permission to the construction of a toilet on a footpath,” suggested James John, coordinator of Andheri East unit of AGNI.
Nothing wrong: BMC
Civic authorities, though, find no fault with their plan. “The location sees movement of over 5 lakh people. That location was selected so that the toilet can benefit maximum commuters,” clarifies Devendra Jain, assistant municipal commissioner.
Citizens, however, are not buying this justification. Bhaskar Patankar, who runs a coaching centre and walks on the stretch daily, says the toilet has blocked the footpath completely.
“Pedestrians have no option but to walk on the road. Why has Andheri alone been chosen for such a plan? If the aim is to provide more public amenities, then such toilets should be introduced outside all major railway stations.”
As he points to the public toilet a stone’s throw away from the new site, he fumes, “I don’t understand the logic behind building a toilet in the vicinity of another and that too by encroaching on the footpath.”
Need more loos
Over the last few years, Andheri has turned into the busiest business hub of the suburbs and registers high footfalls all through the day.
Devendra Jain, assistant municipal commissioner, says it’s this high population density that necessitated the construction of a new public toilet in close quarters of the current one. “More such toilets are needed in the area.”
He, however, claims that pedestrians have not been inconvenienced, and that there is ample space left for them on the footpath.