Hundreds of women in Vasai East chawl forced to relieve themselves in the open, say no action from civic officials despite repeated complaints for six months
Residents of the chawl say that apart from lack of door, water or power connection, no sanitation worker has ever visited these for cleaning. Pic/Hanif Patel
Decrepit toilets, which do not have doors, let alone water or electricity, are forcing the residents of Sant Jalaram Bapu Nagar chawl in Vasai to defecate openly. The women, who are the most-affected, told mid-day that they can only use the toilets, constructed by the Vasai Virar City Municipal Corporation a decade ago, before dawn or after sunset. They also pointed at the close proximity of the railway tracks, which means there is no privacy at all. They alleged that despite repeated complaints to the civic body, no action has been taken.
As no action was taken to remedy the situation despite the residents of Sant Jalaram Bapu Nagar chawl in Vasai writing to the civic body as well as local politicians and officials, they approached mid-day to highlight the issue. They said that they filed a complaint with the VVCMC chief in October last year when the entire country was marking Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, but “the civic officials, with their inaction, made a mockery of the cleanliness campaign”.
The toilets, which were built around a decade ago in the Vasai chawl
Sant Jalaram Bapu Nagar chawl has around 1,500 rooms with 4,500 residents, including around 2,500 women. Most of the residents are Kathiyawadi Gujaratis. A resident, Guruvachan Kannaujia, said, “The civic body constructed the nine toilets around a decade ago for the chawl residents but have not done any maintenance since. We have written to the civic body several times but no one has bothered to help us.”
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Door-less among drug addicts
Local residents said that the toilets used to have doors but they got damaged during the monsoon and then drug addicts frequenting the area allegedly got rid of them. “The government made nine toilets without any plumbing system for a chawl where around 4,500 people live. We not only have to take water with us to the toilet, but also have to deal with the drug addicts who threw the old worn out doors in the nearby gutter,” said Vasanta Kisan Chakhalya, en elderly woman from the chawl.
Annu Mukesh Ambatiya, another resident, said, “After the door was broken and thrown in the gutter by unknown people, we would carry a cardboard to use it as a door. We had kept the cardboard leaning against the wall, but someone threw it in the gutter.”
Women walk across the gutter on which the toilets are constructed. Pics/Hanif Patel
“The railway track is hardly a few feet away from the toilets and train passengers have a clear view inside the toilets. How are we supposed to use them in this scenario? We generally use the toilets before dawn or after sunset. During the day, we either control ourselves or take to open defecation,” added Chakhalya, who hails from Bhavnagar and has been residing in the chawl for decades. Her 35-year-old neighbour Sheetal Sanjay Goraswa said, “It is scary to go there alone as there is no electricity and drug addicts roam in the area. The government must keep the area illuminated and safe for women. But who pays heed to the call of the poor in this country?”
Need urgent repairs
“These toilets are constructed on a huge drain where the waste is flushed. The iron railings have corroded and have become risky. If it is not repaired, a major disaster can happen. The situation is such that children are afraid to go there, fearing a collapse,” said Manju Anil Chakhalya.
She added, “The government has been advertising the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, but these toilets are never cleaned and VVCMC is not showing any interest to clean them also. No sanitation staff ever visited the toilets because there is no water connection.”
When asked about the availability of alternatives to these decrepit toilets, she said, “There is a pay-and-use public toilet near the railway station which charges R5. As most of us are underprivileged and do odd jobs to make ends meet, we cannot afford to shell out Rs 10 per person every day.”
When contacted, VVCMC junior engineer Subodh Deshmukh said, “I had installed doors in all the squat toilets but somebody stole those. I can’t sit there and guard the doors.” When the correspondent asked if any case had been filed in this regard, he said, “No, we have not filed any police complaints. I will install new doors and check if the old ones were stolen or damaged, and then take a call on filing a complaint.’
There are only nine toilets for around 4,500 residents of Sant Jalaram Bapu Nagar chawl in Vasai
Speaking on the corroded iron railing, he said, “I have apprised my office of the situation and am waiting for an approval to initiate a work order.” Samar Sawant, another junior engineer with the civic body, said he was not aware of the lack of power connection. “This is the first time that I am hearing about no power in these toilets. I will look into it on Monday.”
When asked about water connection, Ketan Patil, junior engineer, water department, said, “The toilets did have water connection. I am not aware why there is no connection now. I will visit the spot and let you know by Saturday.”