Ladies and gentlemen, hold your bladders! Lest you will have to walk into one of those public lavatories and take a whiff of somebody else’s piss. When was the last time you truly used a community urinal? No, I am not talking about the fancy ones at malls. By public toilets, I mean the battered and broken ones, emanating a smell so repulsive, you’d pray for apocalypse.
In India, a shauchalay isn’t so sulabh. You will know the horror that is a public toilet, when you are outdoors, your bladder is about to burst and your nervous system refuses to help you. More often than not, a public toilet ends up disappointing you. If, by a dim stroke of fate you find a functional lavatory, it will be locked. At other times, the urinal will either be broken and unusable, or soiled.
Being the world’s largest democracy, we Indians exercise our right to choose our leaders. We expect from these frontrunners, a better country, and a cleaner and healthier society. Consequently, we blame them for any shortcoming. The right to sanitation is not part of a utopian society. It is a cause as tangible as any. Almost half of India does not get access to proper toilets. They either squat on roads, or relieve themselves in open fields. Women and children are particularly at risk, since open defecation leads to grave health problems. The Centre must take up the cause of sanitation more seriously and make available, clean toilets in the most tenuous corners of the country. The toilets must function, have proper flush tanks and be cleaned regularly.
That said, it is in our best interest as well that we do our bit to ensure that urinals are functioning properly.
The lavatory walls are not canvases for people to go and make graffiti on. Moreover, hygiene and public health is everybody’s business. The cubicles should be kept clean for others to use them. The commode is not to be mistaken as a dustbin. So paan chewers, kindly abstain from spitting there. Safai karmcharis are government employees who are paid to keep the society clean, but they are human beings too. They must not be treated like foragers. Sanitary wellbeing is a fundamental challenge that the nation, as one, must address responsibly.