'Will build toilets for girl students'

Insiders reveal that Congress manifesto promises Mumbaikars, girl students of municipal schools that they will have shiny new toilets

Defecation in the open brought about by lack of toilets in the country has long been an international joke, one that the Congress party seems to have taken pretty seriously ahead of the civic polls on February 16.

Pot of trouble: A study found that many girl students in BMC-run schools
avoided going to the bathroom because of its grubby condition, causing
health distress. Representation pic

Suddenly waking up to the reality of this world-famous scarcity, party leaders swear that if voted to power, they will undertake two important programmes. One, construction of 60,000 toilet blocks to clear the backlog of public toilets; two, toilets for girl students in BMC-run run schools across the city. The nubs are to be included in the Congress' election manifesto, a party leader revealed on the condition of anonymity. 

The indecision over its final list of poll candidates not withstanding -- nominations were announced a day after the deadline -- the party exhibits such courage of conviction in fulfilling the toilet pledge as hardly seen in times far away from polls.

A senior party leader, clued in to the developments related to the manifesto committee headed by Eknath Gaikwad, MP, south-central Mumbai, informed this reporter that as per a survey done a few years ago, the metropolis requires 1.20 lakh public toilets. But, wretched as it sounds, we have just 60,000.

"Due to this sheer unavailability, most people prefer to relieve themselves al fresco, along railway tracks, on beach corners, near nullahs and gutters," said the leader. "And the party will try to bridge the backlog at the earliest."

All pent up
Touching upon the second related critical issue -- the health of girl students in municipal schools -- the leader cited another survey.

According to this study, also conducted a few years ago, most civic-run schools did not have enough lavatories for girls. The few that were there were squalid and stank, and therefore were of no avail. It was discovered that many students preferred holding it back rather than relieving themselves in such commode, which created health problems for them. "They would sit through classes and ignore nature's calls due to the soiled state of the toilets", the leader said.

But they won't have to, if the Congress is voted to power, the manifesto implies. "A massive programme to construct toilets, especially for the girl students, will be of great help to them. The party wanted to offer a programme in this direction," the leader said.

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