A civic-owned toilet at the Dadar Market became a seat of contest for local politicians past and present. The installation, located at the Swatantryaveer Savarkar Mandai (SSM), Dadar (W), had been operational for 15 years but has been out of order for the last six months, rotting away in neglect and disrepair, leaving the public to fend for its own.
Constructed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the toilet was handed over to a retail association, SSM Vyapari Mitra Mandal (VMM), which was supposed to maintain it by charging a nominal fee from users. In June 2013, when the G-North ward officials inspected the toilet, they found it in a rundown state and sent a report to the BMC’s market department detailing the disintegration.
Acting on the report, the assistant commissioner of the department warned the VMM through a notice on June 24 that if the toilet was not repaired in 15 days, the corporation would end its agreement with the body. Going a step further than the BMC, VMM”s president Pravin Shetye, a former Shiv Sena branch head, wrote back to the BMC asking permission to raze the toilet and rebuild it from the ground up.
Meanwhile, another retail group SSM Punarvikas Samiti (PS) led by Sudarshan Mandlik, general secretary of the south Mumbai district Congress committee, submitted a proposal to the BMC seeking to reconstruct the same lavatory. The Congressman said, “The VMM has failed to keep the toilet complex in a good condition which has resulted in its weakening and disintegration. It also carried out demolition there without the civic authority’s permission. The BMC should bar the VMM and allow us to rebuild it.”
Incidentally the VMM had earlier pulled down a part of the lavatory in what was assumed was to be the beginning of renovation, only to stop the work after somebody complained to the BMC about the “illegal demolition”. Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) got whiff of the fracas and installed a mobile loo outside the market. But more than a week later, the party removed it. Mandlik said, “The MNS took it back just because they thought that we would take the credit for placing it there.”
MNS corporator Sudhir Jadhav, though, denied being driven by such a self-seeking concern. “The MNS put up the mobile toilet but removed it because it was right on the roadside and was stinking up the Dadar station road, which is used by a lot of people for almost 18 hours a day,” said Jadhav. He also said that he was ready to invest from his corporator’s funds to rebuild it. “I will take up the issue at the ward committee meeting,” he added.
VMM chief Pravin Shetye was not available for comment. Vasant Jagdale, the association’s office bearer, responded to Mandlik’s charge of unauthorised demolition, saying, “We have not demolished the structure but only brought down a part of it which could have collapsed anytime. Nor are we politicising the issue. Rather, the BMC is dragging its feet in giving us the nod to reconstruct it.”
BMC in a bind
With the political gamesmanship, the BMC is caught in a fix as to whom it should appoint as custodian of the toilet. Assistant municipal commissioner of the market department Rajesh Katkar said, “The structure is weak and needs to be reconstructed. We have to go through the process and we will do it as early as possible.”
Fix the toilet urgently: retailers
I don’t know why the BMC is delaying permission for the toilet’s overhaul. This is an essential facility for us and we cannot leave our shops unattended to go to a bathroom which is not close by. - Vinayak Shewale, Sainath Masale
The toilet has been non-functional for the last six months. We have to go up to Dadar station to use the lavatory. - Pankaj Kadam, Vendor
I go to a public toilet near the Plaza Theatre, which is quite a bit of a distance from here. The BMC should fix this thing right away. - Rajesh Kumar, vegetable vendor
It is an inconvenience for our employees to go far out of the market. The BMC should provide it to us without delay. - Mohsin Khan, Chicken vendor