Although the Pune Municipal Corporation has time and again claimed that women’s safety and convenience is a priority issue, it seems less consistent when it actually comes to taking action. Case in point – the gents’ public toilets situated bang opposite the all-girls Hujurpaga High School.
Students of the all-girls Hujurpaga High School brave the reek from the public toilets placed right outside their school. Pics/Shashank Sane
For the past two years, the school authorities have repeatedly requested the civic body to move the toilets somewhere else, as they cause great inconvenience to the students, who have to walk right past it every day to get to the school gate. However, the PMC is yet to take any action, and even the local corporator – a woman – has failed to show any sensitivity in handling the issue.
Rekha Palshikar, secretary of the school’s board, has followed up with the PMC several times over the past two years, but the public toilets are yet to be removed
The school, run by the private Maharashtra Girls Education Society (MGES), is located in the heart of the city, with one gate opening on to Laxmi road, and another on Bajirao road. The latter was built two years ago, after the authorities decided to expand its campus. However, girls who use the Bajirao gate have to walk past two public toilets placed there over a decade ago by the PMC - one for men and the other for women, even though currently, men are often seen using both.
“Our new school building holds classes for 7,000 girls from junior KG to senior college. Hence the gents toilet booths situated exactly in front of the entrance gate are a menace for girl students entering the school. Parents are also demanding that these booths be removed immediately. Our only request to PMC is to remove them on an urgent basis,” said Rekha Palshikar, secretary of MGES.
Taking initiative, the school administration offered to use 300 sq feet in the basement of the new school building to construct a public toilet for women, on the condition that the PMC would then remove the toilets outside its gates. “The school proposed to the PMC that we would provide 300 sq ft space for a public toilet for women in the new building, as there is no such facility available in the vicinity,” Palshikar said.
After its completion, for the past one and half years, the school has been requesting that the civic body take charge of the toilet and shut down the ones outside, but neither has happened so far.
Now PMC officials and local BJP corporator, Mukta Tilak have said that the toilets cannot be removed as the school has only provided facilities for women. Since Hujurpaga school is a girls-only institute, providing toilet facilties for men on campus is out of the question.
Corporator Tilak, who was approached by the school management several times, said, “See, PMC cannot shift any of its public toilets till it gets an alternate site. In this case, even though the school has built public toilets in its building, it is restricted to women. Hence till we fix another site for gents’ toilets, the booths cannot be removed.”
However, there are already at least two public toilets for gents close by. “Two public toilets are already there at the nearby Appa Balwant Chowk, and near the Vishrambaug Wada ward office. Removing two temporary blocks at Hujurpaga School will not create much inconvenience for men,” said a senior local PMC official, on condition of anonymity.
In addition, in a letter dated March 6, PMC had already conveyed that it had no objection to the school’s request that the toilet in its premises should be restricted to women. So its current stand doesn’t hold up.
The school is further distressed that the PMC has not taken over the women’s toilet on campus either, to which Tilak said, “The school has received the completion certificate for the structure recently, and according to the rules, PMC cannot take charge of any property till that happens. Once the model code of conduct of elections gets over, PMC will complete the procedure and take charge.”
Assistant Municipal Commissioner of Vishrambaug ward, Madhav Deshpande said, “Our search for an alternate site is going on. The toilet boxes outside the school will be removed for sure. But it will take some more time; perhaps once the elections