Antop hill slum dwellers forced to defecate in the open as toilet shuts down for demolition
Hundreds of locals are forced to defecate in the open as the biggest public toilet facility in the area has been shut for demolition
The toilet facility that will be demolished
Hundreds of slum dwellers in Antop Hill have been forced to defecate in the open as the only public toilet in the area has been shut for demolition. According to sources, the BMC had declared the toilet "dangerous" for use, around 6 months ago, following which slum dwellers had approached the local MLA, but to no avail. While another public toilet is available in the area, residents say it is a huge inconvenience, especially for women, children and the elderly, as there is a serpentine queue at the facility.
An NGO, Khwaja Hindalwali Welfare Association, has alleged that the local mafia is responsible for the shutdown of the public toilet which 34 sanitation units. Speaking to mid-day, NGO chief Anwar Shaikh, 70, who has been residing in the slum since the last 50 years, said, "The local mafia is helping some big builders vacate slums in the area by resorting to such illegal measures. Yogesh Vichare, Sainath Co-Operative Society's chief promoter, who also happens to oversee the maintenance of these public toilets, is forcing locals to leave the locality. Around 1,800 people live in these slums, and around 50 people have already vacated their homes. Not surprisingly, the builders wasted no time in demolishing those houses."
The queue outside the nearest toilet block
Akbar Patel, 45, a software engineer who's attached to the NGO as an advisor, said the public toilet was built around 12 years ago under the SPARK (Sustainable Progress through Application of Research and Knowledge) scheme of the government. "The firm that built the toilet formed a society with some locals who would oversee the maintenance of the amenity. It was decided that people would be charged R5 to use the ground plus one facility. Recently, without any notice, the society members shut the toilet forcing hundreds of slum dwellers to defecate in the open or brave the serpentine queue at the nearest facility."
Embroidery material strewn about the facility’s top floor that was allegedly rented out by the maintenance in-charge
Patel added that the authorities made no alternative provisions before sealing the toilet. "Do they expect us to stand in the queue at the nearest toilet facility throughout the day? Why wasn't an alternative offered to us?"
According to Shaikh, the first floor of the public toilet was shut for use around 5 years ago. "Vichare gave the toilet on the top floor on rent to some embroidery artists for R10,000 per month. We had approached the cops, but even after making us wait for over four hours, they didn't file a complaint. Cops assured us that they will take action against the culprits within four days, but nothing has happened on that front till now. Complaints to the local MLA didn't help. Now, we plan to approach the chief minister's office."
Meanwhile, speaking to mid-day, Vichare said, "An engineer from the F north ward had declared that public toilet dangerous for use 6 months ago. We had approached the local corporator for financial aid, but we returned empty handed. So, we had no option but to close the toilet. We plan to build another smaller facility in the area. However, the problem is that half the people who use this facility don't bother to pay. We repaired the toilet block 18 months ago, but within a few months we found it damaged." Vichare has denied renting out the toilet on the first floor. "No part of the facility was given on rent to any party. The caretaker, who was doing a part-time job at the facility, was into embroidery."
Despite several attempts, local Congress corporator Sufiyan Vanu remained unavailable for comment.
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