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Hotels and restaurants in Delhi will open their toilets to public from April: A Perspective!
3/21/2017 12:20:09 AM
Dr. Pragya Khanna

Come April and you
won't have to go looking for public washrooms to relieve yourself after a long day of shopping in a South Delhi market. Just walk into the nearest restaurant, convey your need to the staff and you will be able to use the well-equipped toilet for a meagre Rs 5. Whoa! The move would allow anyone with Rs 5 in hand to access washrooms in even five-star hotels of South Delhi.
Yes! Washrooms of south Delhi hotels, restaurants and eateries will turn into public toilets from next month, with anyone willing to pay up to Rs 5 getting access to these facilities. South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) said the move would make more than 4,000 toilets accessible to the public. The civic body said it would enforce the rule by adding a provision to this effect in the health trade licences issued to these establishments. According to Mr. Puneet Kumar Goel, SDMC Commissioner, "The move, that will also boost Swachh Bharat Mission, will be particularly beneficial for women who face problems due to lack of toilets in marketplaces". Acting on the advice of the Lt Governor, the SDMC has made it mandatory for all hotels and restaurants located in south Delhi to give full access to the general public to these toilets.
At present there are 580 public urinals and 480 toilets in South Delhi. Out of 480, only 140 can be used by women. These include toilets in Lajpat Nagar, Green Park, Safdarjung Development Area, Rajouri Garden, Bhikaji Cama Place and Nehru place. With such a limited number, it is not at all difficult to imagine the plight of citizens who are in need to use one and are not able to do so due to a variety of unhealthy reasons.
Generally speaking none of us is unaware of the problems associated with the sanitary conditions around us, which has rather become a routine thing and is often ignored as we think it is unavoidable and little can be done on part of an individual.
It is not uncommon to find visitors to India from developed industrial countries complain of "Delhi belly" within a few hours of arrival, and some fall seriously ill, the reason being the unhygienic and insanitary conditions in and around the area which lead to infections and contagions and pose health risks. The general lack of cleanliness and hygiene hits the eye wherever one goes, viz., hotels, hospitals, households, work places, railway trains, airplanes and, yes, temples. People think nothing while spitting or littering whenever they like and wherever they choose, and living in surroundings which they themselves make unliveable by their dirty habits.
The Indian Public Health Association has regularly been reporting the "scary situation" in Indian hotels, restaurants and eateries. The last, in particular, do not follow hygienic practices, use unclean containers, utensils and cups and plates and are often located near open drains or garbage bins. Even most mid-day meal kitchens in schools are no better. It is very commonly advised that if you want to keep your sanity, you should avoid entering the kitchen of a hotel if you have a plan to have a meal there.
Open defecation has become so rooted in India that even when toilet facilities are provided, the spaces around temple complexes, temple tanks, beaches, parks, pavements, and indeed, any open area are often found covered with faecal matter.
Very often at the dining hall of posh mansions hired out for weddings, I notice stacks of eatables like dahi vadas and jalebis kept covered by the dirtiest clothes I have ever seen.
Here are some sample findings from a published study conducted by Global Hygiene Council and supported by Reckitt Benckiser: All swabbed kitchen cloths are heavily contaminated and found to be the dirtiest item in households; in 92 per cent cases, chopping boards and knives are found to be contaminated; 45 per cent of home makers do not wash fruit and 51 per cent of them do not wash vegetables before eating; only 44 per cent of them clean and disinfect their child's lunch box every day; only 44 per cent of children are made to wash their hands after playing outside.
Moreover, we are forced to recoil with horror at the infinite tolerance of fellow citizens to pile-ups of garbage, overflowing sewage, open drains and generally foul-smelling environs.
With such conditions existing around, the Govt. is making every possible move for improvement and for educating the masses about the importance of sanitation and cleanliness and at the same time providing them the facilities for their convenience.
On October 2, 2014, to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary, PM Mr. Modi inaugurated the Swachh Bharath Mission or the Clean India Mission. The central objective of the mission is to eliminate open defecation in India by 2019, not just to ensure universal sanitation coverage. The target is to transform villages and cities into "open defecation-free" communities, meaning they demonstrate: toilet access, toilet use and toilet technology that keeps both people and the environment safe.
The idea of making the hotel toilets public has however aroused a debate amongst the owners, who advocate the point that if more public toilets would be good for the public then the correct answer is to tax those in South Delhi more in order to build some public toilets. They say an economy only works if people who own property actually have rights over that property. There are undoubtedly people in Delhi who do not have a nice bed under a secure roof to sleep in. There are also undoubtedly people with a rarely used spare bedroom. Why shouldn't the council mandate that empty bedrooms must be made available to anyone who needs one? Why are the beans from this field the property of the farmer and not those who need them? Once we break down that barrier of private property actually meaning private property then there's no end to the troubles that flow. This, according to hoteliers, is a bad idea and should be repealed.
"Would you allow someone to use the toilets in your home if they paid you for this?" said the owner of a posh hotel in South Delhi. There is a hygiene aspect to allowing all and sundry to use toilet facilities in restaurants because it will be impossible to ensure cleanliness if people other than patrons are allowed in. A restaurant is normally assessed on its hygiene standards among other things and now this aspect will be taken out of the hands of the owners and staff. Then there is the issue of security which will be difficult to ensure when large numbers of people are trooping in and out using the facilities in eateries.
For India to meet its goal of eliminating open defecation, it will need cooperation and coordination between a diverse variety of systemic actors, generation of knowledge products in the form of accessible curriculum for masons, and community engagement to build only safe toilets and to use them well.
As per my opinion, I don't have any statistics for my observations. It is based on experience of travelling across India and to various offices. 1. Negligence and low priority: We cannot use any toilet in any Govt office/ courts/ police stations/bus stands/ railway stations/ leave alone public toilets. They are more often than not dirty and smelling. 2. Scarcity of water: India does not have adequate water/ distribution system. All public facilities need water. 3. Lack of education: People should be well educated on need of toilets and how to use them. The people who have access to toilets also should be educated on proper usage of toilets.
A survey of over 200 public toilets was conducted across the capital by NGO ActionAid India early in 2017 that has revealed poor infrastructure, dysfunctional toilets and a host of issues that affect the safety and security of women and differently-abled users. True! There isn't a single woman I know who has never been in a situation around the marketplace where she had to use the toilet but was not able to because there either wasn't a women's toilet in the vicinity or it was too dirty to use.
Another survey was conducted as part of an audit carried out in seven cities in India under the #wheretopee campaign and has shown that the capital's toilets are not women friendly and have serious safety concerns.
Nearly 70 per cent women respondents said the toilets were not cleaned regularly, 62 per cent said the flush did not function usually and 53 per cent said that running water was not available all the time. A significant portion of toilets did not have availability of soap or handwashing facilities.
The ActionAid survey says that 55 per cent of toilets did not have any light bulbs and 51 per cent did not have light posts outside the complex. More than 40 per cent of the toilets did not lock from inside and 28 per cent did not have toilet doors. Further, the toilets are not in keeping with the Union's Government's Swacch Bharat guidelines for differently-abled users. Of the toilets surveyed, 78 per cent did not have ramps and 75 per cent did not have any braille signages.
The civic body believes that the permission to the public to access over 3,500 toilets in prominent South Delhi areas that do not have adequate public toilets would promote Swachh Bharat initiative. It is unclear how it plans to enforce its orders given that access to facilities within restaurants, bars or pubs has always been more of a matter of class than rights. For instance, take two famous cases reported last year, one at a popular restaurant in Kolkata and another in the national capital. In both cases, the management of the enterprises refused to allow poorer people to enter their premises.
As per the Hotel/restaurant owners, the other question is of security. They say, "We are responsible for the safety and security of our clients. What if we lose our power to exercise control over admission of people in the property and later something untoward happens? Who shall be accountable for that?"
Though the right of any private establishment to frame its own rules must be respected as long as they do not violate any law, they have a right to prescribe a dress code and they have a right to decide who can or cannot be let in to their premises. The first priority for them has to be their customers many of whom may not fancy having to queue up for the washroom along with the public. However, there is definitely a shortage of public toilets in our cities. Given that such a practice is successful in many countries and the problem can be resolved to some extent if big enterprises build some public toilets apart from the regular ones so that they have as a positive gesture for Swachh Bharat initiative.
Let's contemplate!
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