Sunday, December 24, 2017

Where is Swachhata App for Mind?

“Neatness and cleanliness is not a function of how rich or poor you are but that of mentality and principle.”… Ikechukwu Izuakor.

Ikechukwu Izuakor is the author of “Great Reflections on Success” & no wonder that Neatness, cleanliness, mentality, principles as well rich & poor, he understands co-relation of all these terminologies! Why I recalled this quote because two things happened on the cleanliness fronts, one of my cousins who works with Thane Municpal Corporation, posted about downloading “Swachata App” on our families whatsap group. At the same time I read news about PCMC’s Hon Commissioner visiting public toilets in the city to check its condition! Well, there was one more news about nallahs (some years back they were streams carrying fresh water) flowing through our beloved Pune city & restriction on construction from these nallahs. Its move to make them clean, open for water to flow & to conserve biodiversity around the banks of these nallahs is what authorities as well nature lovers claims! Now don’t ask which water is going to flow through these nallahs (read streams) as except rainy seasons, most of these nallahs runs dry or carries drainage water as well are best dumping yards for every possible piece you can find in the garbage! We will come to nallah news later but let’s look at the scene on the front of Swachata App as well our public toilets. When it’s something bad regarding city then Pune  (red PMC) as Pimpri Chinchwad (read PCMC) are really twin cities as take example of encroached footpaths then in both cities you will have to find a footpath which has not been encroached by tea or anda-bhurji stalls along with every possible vendor using this place as his or her birth right! And if at some place by sheer luck the footpath is saved from private encroachments then there are PMT’s bus stops, MSEB”s feeder pillars, Telephone junction boxes, MGNL’s gas pipe line accessories & if nothing then hoardings/banners of our city’s rulers i.e. elected (even defeated also) members of PMC or PCMC! So you won’t feel any difference whether you are in PMC or PCMC while you are walking on footpaths & then this similarity doesn’t stops at footpaths, you can go to any ward office, civic help centers, public hospitals, bus stands, BRT’s routes (please don’t ask means what) & on all these fronts both cities goes hand in hand as all these things listed above won’t make you feel miss your home surroundings, despite your location!

In all the listed aspects above,  one thing is most common & that is public toilets of the cities; as not just by look, you can locate a public toilet by sheer its stench from some distance, such is the condition of most of public toilets or lavatories in PMC or PCMC. Ask any citizen of these two cities about what’s his (I won’t say her, as ladies public toilets is separate subject in itself) opinion about public toilets/ lavatories in the city & I am sure you will get to listen reply full of many un-printable words! On such background I congratulate PCMC Commissioner that at least he acknowledged that public toilets in the city are grave problem & he actually visited few of them! Though all I wish is it should not remain a typical show visit like most political leaders makes & it remains in the form of snaps in their “Karya Ahawal” & now days on FB or Whatsap, that’s all. On very day not even next day you find that  public toilet is in more bad condition than its earlier state, is a fact we all know now. But a visit by civic body’s chief, well, we do expect some real change here after such visit. By the way, I myself under my company has adopted a public toilet at Nal Stop, Karve Road & right now I won’t take that as example as that’s probably the only clean toilet in entire Deccan/Karve road area but let’s see what’s scene of most public toilets & the reason behind their bad status, as then only we can work out solution for the same.

First of all let’s accept public toilets/ lavatories are as important to any city as any other infrastructure facility like public transport, public hospitals, play grounds or public school or even roads! Millions of people who are citizen of this city & tax payers are on road every day for their work or for general cause & they do need to respond nature’s call. Imagine a city without public toilets (though the situation in Pune is just like that even having public toilets which are of no use) as it will create very difficult situation for sanitation & hygiene on roads. Public toilets were part of the Sanitation system even in ancient Rome, often in proximity to or as part of public baths. By the Middle Ages, public toilets became uncommon, with only few attested in Frankfurt in 1348, in London in 1383, and in Basel in 1455. In the early 19th century, large cities in Europe started installing public toilets: first in Paris, then in Berlin in 1820 and in London in 1851. George Jennings, the sanitary engineer, introduced public toilets, which he called "monkey closets", to the Crystal Palace for The Great Exhibition of 1851. He also used the euphemism "halting station", now in use in Indian English for a basic place to stay attached to a railway station. Public toilets were also known as "retiring rooms" ("Drawing room", from "to withdraw", and Waiting room.). The history of toilets in India is as old as the Indus Valley Civilization, which had grown in and around Harappa and Mahenjodaro. The archaeological remains of the Indus Valley Civilization bear evidence to the use of water-borne toilets by the Harappan people living at Lothal, which is only 62 km from Ahmedabad. The architects of the Indus Valley were in the know of sanitary engineering science, which got buried in the grave of the Indus Valley Civilization, thereby leading to the practice of open defecation. Our present ruling govt bombards us with advertising against defecation/urinating in open but the very same govt neglects most effective tool to fight with this attitude of society ie public toilets! Rather instead spending million rupees for advertising on Swachha Bharat, let’s build as many public toilets & make a system to maintain them in usable condition. As no sane person will like to urinate in open & it’s very humiliating thing for women yet if we don’t provide enough public toilets then what citizen on streets are supposed to do about it?

Another important aspect is in our country when it’s a Public Property then everybody thinks it is somebody else’s duty to maintain that property clean & our public toilet is classic example of this attitude of ours, exception people like Adar Poonawala, who spends money from their pocket to keep their city clean! As right from our school days to college we have grown up seeing or using public toilets in our school or colleges which are dirty; so what’s new if the public toilets on roads too are dirty? And most importantly even the civic body cares a hang about the public toilets & this also no body wonders because aesthetics is not our culture. May it be ugliest hoardings which are illegally erected or slums which are mushrooming on public places like hills/ river bed, no civic officer takes cognizance & acts against the same; so how we are going to expect PMC or PCMC to act up on keeping city’s public toilets clean, which unfortunately is their job. Shame is civic body’s chief has to visit one of their very own establishments i.e. public toilets & push them to keep it usable & clean, this can happen only in India! This is like house lady of a house has to urge grown-ups in the house to keep the toilet clean after their use, can we imagine this? And then problem is at most of the public toilets there is not even water supply arrangement to keep it clean neither a janitor to maintain it, so how & who is going to keep these toilets clean & usable? Outcome is public toilets & lavatories have become nuisance to the surroundings & people living around demands demolition of the same which civic body accepts immediately & remover the public toilet itself. A classic example of “na rahega baans na bajegi bansuri” attitude; means remove the problem making public toilet itself instead keeping or maintaining it, so the problem is solved, everybody is happy & people are free to urinate along the road or hold the nature’s call to their physical limits! Public toilets are not just any utility but are face of our city & it’s every persons responsibility to keep in clean & presentable; I wonder how we can we call our self smart city with dirtiest public toilets around!  

And then on the top of it I came across an advertise aired on major FM channels of radio by PMC about participating in a competition of “Swachha Abhiyan” i.e. a clean society or establishment in the city. Why can’t our beloved PMC & PCMC first arrange such competition for their own concerned ward offices especially for public toilets as before you appeal people for cleanliness & hygiene first clean up your own back yard (actually public toilets are right in front yard of the city) is what any sensible citizen will tell to PMC! Rather close lock down every toilet in every govt office in the city & make the officials along with elected members compulsory to use public toilets then only they will understand the pain (discomfort is very mild word) of common citizens while using public toilets! All we need is form a separate team at PMC ward level which will be given task just to keep public toilets clean at the same time appeal individual person as well private companies to come forward & adopt public toilets in their surrounding! It’s a shame for entire Pune that with so many millionaires (who have earned their fortune in this very city) here as well international level companies, we get to see just one Adar Poonawala, extending hand for city’s cleanliness! Why can’t the people residing in surroundings of public toilets as well shop keepers come together & employ any agency to keep the nearby public toilets clean? Why we need always PMC or some Poonawala to make our surrounding clean? I think it’s high time to think what we as a citizens are doing for our city!

Then another news as I mentioned was about nallahs flowing through the city & not allowing construction from 6meters to 15 meters distance on both banks of these nallahs. Well, I know we have illogical planners but now even thoughtless minds also seem to be deciding the fate of this city. As fact is, all the nallahs flowing through city are already marked along with the banks by Primove named agency. Then question is, what about redevelopment of already existing buildings along these nallahs, as hundreds of kilometers length nallahs flows through this city for years. And then when mostly all the nallahs has been concretized what are we going to achieve by reserving no development on such huge areas around the nallahs! First it’s no development along rivers, then on hills, then at the foot of hills, then along Metro corridor (still unclear) & now no development along the nallahs; and at the same time no one speaks about already existing illegal development on all these places! Let me remind when we can’t protect such no-development zones then they become breeding ground for illegal constructions, off course that’s what our rulers want, so they can regularize all such illegal constructions in due course! I am not against conservation of nallahs/rivers/hills, what I am against is the means which we use for the same as one side we ban development along or at these places in the name of conservation of biodiversity but we care a hang to ensure that outcome is a fact! And what about keeping all these nallahs along with the rivers clean, whose responsibility is that & what’s being done on that front, is a question I will like to put forward. As PMC/ UD/ Govt call it by any name, all it does is ban construction (read legal construction) & their job is done! At the same time as citizens our approach towards entire cleanliness of the city, may it be our public toilets or rivers or nallahs needs to be changed.

To conclude all I will say is, need of the time is downloading Swachhata App, not just in our cell phones but in our culture as what is more stinking is not our public toilets or nallahas or rivers but our attitude as a society towards them!

Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

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