Imagine not being able to use a toilet for more than eight hours even though you have access to it
Debiswari Vidyayatan. Photo Courtesy: Mr Pradip Dhar
A few months back we got an email from Pradip Dhar* and his seven-year-old daughter Rituparna* about the pathetic state of toilets in her school Debiswari Vidyayatan, Makhla, Serampore ( a government-aided school in West Bengal). We got in touch with Pradip and spoke to his daughter. Rituparna told us that she has to hold the urge to relieve herself throughout the day because of the filth and stink in the school toilets. It has become quite ‘normal’ for these kids to go without a toilet for more than eight hours and girls frequently suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Her father requested Loo Watch to visit the school after January so that we can talk with the principal. However, recently we got a message from Dhar that he had gone to the school to deposit the fees and took the opportunity to visit the toilets. He sent us this photo and we understand why Rituparna refuses to use them.
Debiswari Vidyayatan school toilet. Photo Courtesy: Mr Pradip Dhar
The state of toilets enraged him and he approached the authorities and demanded action to be taken urgently. Emboldened by him, the other parents also joined and some complained about the frequency of UTIs among their kids. As a result, the principal and the teachers promised that they would fix the problem within 15 days.
Missing links in Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyan
In 2014, Prime Minister Modi promised that all schools in the country should have separate toilets for boys and girls under the Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyan (SVA). Last year, the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the nodal ministry, announced that its targets were achieved and there were now separate toilets for boys and girls across all schools in India. However, reports as this one suggest the opposite. Apart from some shocking statistics, reports also say toilets have been built haphazardly without water supply connection or proper drainage.
The problem of maintenance also plagues toilets which have been built with CSR funds under the SVA. The Swachh Bharat Abhigyan is an important programme as it gave a renewed push to sanitation, but it makes no sense to spend lakhs of money on toilets which will be rendered unusable after a few months.
Debiswari Vidyayatan is an example of a waste of precious resources even though the school had toilets even before the launch of SVA. At Loo Watch, we feel school toilets in such government-aided must be reviewed by independent organisations, the existing bottlenecks identified and new sources of funding options have to be explored. These can be done if we are ready to widen our vision and be open to innovative thinking.
Let us think about the millions of Rituparnas who are bearing with this painful situation because of the inefficiency of grown-ups like you and I.
*names have been changed on request