With malls, banks, petrol pumps and other facilities mushrooming across the district, one would barely have to walk a few miles in any direction to find whatever they need. Try looking for a clean, functioning public toilet, however, and the story is entirely different.
The issue has long been a sore point for citizens, but it hardly seems to matter to local MLAs, who have failed to allot funds to build public toilets yet again in this year’s proposals under the Local Area Development (LAD) scheme. Except for Girish Bapat, MLA for the Kasba assembly segment, who proposed spending R24 lakh to build two public toilets in his constituency, none of the other seven MLAs have set aside funds to redress the problem. Instead, most of the other leaders have chosen to spend on the construction of community halls and gymnasiums, installing streetlights, and the procurement of gymnasium equipment, according to the District Planning Committee records.
“Although all of them made their proposals on time, except Bapat, none of them allocated funds to build toilets. It seems that having sufficient public toilets is not a matter of importance for them,” said M D Ghode, head of the District Planning Committee. She added that, although it was not a very impressive provision, at least Bapat had suggested that two toilets be built, one in the Rajendra Nagar area, and another at the Urdu High School (number 8), located at Dandekar Bridge.
Under the LAD scheme, each MLA is authorised to spend R2 crore each year on various developmental works, such as the construction of walkways, public toilets, streetlights, parks, community halls and so on. It is mandatory for all MLAs in the district to submit their proposals with suggested projects and estimated costs before the announcement of the model code of conduct. Once the proposals are approved, the actual work begins.
Not enough toilets
While the PMC claims that there are 6,000 public toilets in the city, an NGO, Milun Saryajani — working for women’s issues — filed a writ petition in Bombay High Court against this figure. “Last month we filed a writ petition, as we are very sure that the
figure given by the PMC is misguiding people. There might be 6,000 toilets in the city, but many of those do not qualify as public toilets, as most of them are located in school buildings, government offices and in gardens, which are not easily accessible to citizens,” said Chetan Gandhi, who works with the NGO.
Ghode agrees that there is an urgent need for toilets to be built, and expressed disappointment that the issue was still largely ignored. “I was expecting that this year, at least, the MLAs would spend money on building public toilets, especially for women. However, even Madhuri Misal (representing the Parvati segment), who is the only woman MLA in the city, did not spend a single rupee for women’s toilets or general toilets this year. Last year, she had suggested just one women’s toilet in her constituency,” added Ghode. Misal claims that she proposed a new public toilet in Swargate this year, but the planning committee’s records show no such allotment.
Not enough space!
Other MLAs have provided a variety of excuses for their failure to provide for new toilets in their constituencies. Bapu Pathare, representing Vadgaon Sheri, for instance, claimed that it was lack of adequate space that did not allow him to build the facilities. “What is the use of spending money on public toilets when the local residents always oppose it in their respective areas? Instead, PMC should reserve places to build urinals,” he said.
The MLA from the cantonment area, Ramesh Bagwe, said public toilets had already been constructed in his constituency by corporators, while Shivaji Nagar MLA Vinayak Nimhan said he had set aside most of his funds to providing better facilities at the hospital in Khadki. Khadakwasla MLA Bhimrao Tapkir pointed out that a major part of his constituency falls in rural areas, and, so, building roads was his top priority.