Archana, a young change maker from Karnataka started a petition asking the Union Minister for Roads, Transport and Highways and the NHAI to ensure clean, safe, functional toilets for women on a 350-kilometer stretch of NH 78 in Karnataka.
She writes, I had gone to urinate when my long-distance public bus from Sakleshpur to Bengaluru halted for passengers to relieve themselves. I expected cleanliness and hygiene as any other normal person would. But what I saw was utterly disgusting. Algae and larvae were visible all around and the eggs of worms and mosquitoes breeding on the water surface.
She said, she was unable to use toilet and had to suppress the urge of urinating for the entire long journey.
Recalling her experience she further writes, It goes worse. The facility was unmarked. It was frightening to search for it in the dark. A strange man, who I later found out was visually impaired, was sitting outside the facility, charging people Rs 5 to use the toilet. There were no sign-boards or demarcations of toilets for men, women and others. There were no lights inside or outside of the toilet. I had to use the light on my cell phone to find my way.
The infrastructural condition of toilet was completely rotten. The doors were with broken locks, commode was also not in shape and there were no tap for water. Neither there were mugs or soap or any dustbin. In fact, a pile of soiled sanitary napkins was seen rotting in the corner.
And when she inquired for water, the man said there was none. That explained the terrible stench. This sorry excuse for a toilet had not been cleaned in days!
If this is making you sick, imagine the plight of thousands of women who are forced to use such facilities every single day when they travel the 350-kilometer stretch from my town Sakleshpur, writes Archana.
What is worse is that unlike most men who can disregard the situation, women cannot defecate in the open because of how unsafe it is. Neither have they wanted to urinate outdoors.
Women are damned whether they use such toilets or not. If they force themselves to use the facility, they will definitely exposing themselves to infections.
And most importantly, when women suppressed the urge of urinating this long in periods – they risk contracting urinary tract infection, which if not treated can lead to sepsis and death.
Archana in her petition further explains,
My diabetic mother who needs to urinate every two hours dreads travelling to Bangalore for this very reason. As a social worker I travels a lot on this stretch of NH 48, I can confidently confirm that these appalling conditions exist in toilets at all 30 petrol bunks, 7 toll booths and 5 bus stops of Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC).
Filled with frustration, I filed a Right to Information application. I even called the helpline of the National Highway Association of India where two drunken men shouted at me for complaining about the toilet.
The time for asking questions is over. It’s time to act. I believe that only the government and National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) can fix this rot.
Moral of the Story
Here are the listed suggestions and well deserved demands asked by Archana.
In particular, there should be
- One public toilet available every 50 kilometers
- Signboards indicating where the toilets are
- Separate well-marked toilets for women
- A security guard present 24/7
- Proper doors with working latches
- Clean running water
- All facilities including a clean bucket, mug and a hand-washing station
- Proper lighting and ventilation in these toilets
- A sanitary napkin vending machine
- Regular cleaning of urinals and toilets
- A well-displayed poster giving a helpline number for maintenance issues
Sign her petition and support the rights for clean and hygiene toilets.