On Mumbai’s roadmap: Washroom for women every two km!

November 13th, 2011 - 5:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Nov 13 (IANS) To improve the sanitary standards in Mumbai, its civic body is planning free-for-use washrooms for women every two km of the city. And if a group of NGOs has its way, they may also be equipped with sanitary pads vending machines and have female cleaners instead of the male staff.

“The BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) is planning to build dedicated toilets for women within every two km in the city. After their construction, the maintenance and management of these will be handed over to NGOs,” BMC standing committee chairman Rahul Shevale told IANS.

A group of 35 NGOs is demanding that these restrooms should have facilities to change and dispose off sanitary pads.

“There should be vending machines for sanitary pads. I am sure a woman would not mind paying a few bucks if she has the facility of buying and changing at the same place,” Usha Kale of NGO Apnalaya India told IANS.

“We have demanded that the BMC build such a toilet as a pilot project at any of the busy stations like Dadar, Churchgate or Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus,” she added.

Mumbai’s civic body will Monday launch a joint survey in association with the NGO representatives to identify the problems of the plan.

“To start with, we will survey 10 BMC wards in 10 days. Once the survey is over, we will decide on a pilot project,” Shevale said.

Kale said the budget to manage and maintain these restrooms should be provided by the BMC.

“Women generally face problems when a male attendant is tending to the bathroom. It is embarrassing for them. We can provide women manpower, but the maintenance costs and the salaries of these attendants should be paid by the BMC,” Kale told IANS.

Apnalaya is one of the 35 NGOs that have been regularly coordinating with the BMC for improved sanitation facilities for women in the financial capital of the country.

Kale also pointed out that women are charged to use public toilets, which is against the rules.

“As per the rule, no one should be charged. But mostly women have to pay to use the restrooms. Moreover, there are times when one might not have change to pay. It becomes embarrassing for a woman to argue with a male attendant and hence she might entirely avoid using the loo,” Kale said.

“This leads to health hazards. Moreover, unclean toilets and unsafe atmosphere adds to the trouble,” she added.

According to a BMC official, there are around 1,800 public toilets in the city. The ratio of toilet blocks for men and women is 80 and 20.

“Shortage of blocks and the liberal use of water are often cited as reasons for charging a fee by those who maintain it. But it surely is not right,” he said.

However, Shevale has promised to prominently display a sign at all public restrooms that it can be used for free.

Mumbai has 427 sq km of area of which 105 sq km is a national park and 45 sq km is the coastal area.

(Mauli Buch can be contacted at mauli.b@ians.in)

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