Lucknow: Lucknow, with a population of nearly three million and the capital of India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, doesn't have any public toilets for women and has a toilet for every 58,844 people, a Right to Information (RTI) application has revealed.
No wonder then, says RTI activist Urvashi Sharma, the city has become an open toilet, with hundreds spotted on any given day relieving themselves out in the open, on busy thoroughfares and even in VIP colonies.
In her questions sent to the Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC), the activist had sought the number of public toilets within its limits. Admitting to an "acute shortage" of public toilets, LMC officials have also conceded that Lucknow has "no separate toilets for women."
This, amid growing concerns in the civil society about creating more toilets in the state, in absence of which many crimes against women like rape are taking place in the countryside.
"I found this shocking as every day we hear that absence of public toilets is leading to spiralling crime," Sharma told IANS while ruing the fact that if this was the situation in the state capital what it would be in small towns and villages.
Sharma also pointed out that the issue was much more grave as Lucknow is not only the state's seat of power but also a tourist attraction and a cultural centre.
Reacting sharply, social activist Umra Warsi said the RTI revelations were shocking and urged the state government to sit up and take note.
"It is a shame that even after so many years of independence, successive governments have failed to provide such a basic need in the capital of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous and politically significant state," she noted.
"I am amazed that a chief minister (Akhilesh Yadav) who zips through the city's streets and roads every now and then has not even thought of something as important as this," Madonna Xavier, a teacher with a local college in Indiranagar, told IANS. More shocking, she added, is the fact that the state had a woman chief minister a few years back.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and city mayor Dinesh Sharma said the facts are misplaced. When confronted with the facts given by the city's medical health official, Sharma said that additional toilets have been made by other government agencies like SUDA and the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) and private NGOs including Sulabh.
Sharma admitted that there should be greater focus on the development of public utilities. "We have identified some places for modern toilets and they would be ready soon," he informed.
Municipal officials however say "people travelling in cars and on two-wheelers do not use public toilets and tend to use ones in malls, multiplexes and big shopping complexes."
So where is the need to build more toilets, especially for women?