Team Eloo, in Shantiniketan, conducted its second survey on safe and hygiene washrooms for women on Highways. The Survey was headed by me, Diptendu Roy, a fellow at the School for Social Entrepreneurs, run by Peacetech lab USA and US Consulate General Mumbai and CG Government.
The Journey of Sanitation Survey began with an incident. In the year 2017 I was travelling with my mother from Raipur to Jagdalpur. While returning to Raipur my mother had problems due to lack of toilet near the Keshkal Valley. The people passing through the road are also taunted when my mother had to urinate in a bush. The incident touched me for life thus i came up with this non profit institution named Eloo, which is now trying to overcome similar problems of women by understanding and surveying around significant places.
First i did a survey in Chhattisgarh, and follow up of the survey took place in Sonajhuri Haat of Shantiniketan. Sonajhuri is one of the top tourist attractions for people visiting santiniketan. Sonajhuri haat is famous for its weekend handicraft haat. Where local artisans sell their handmade artifacts. More than 1000 sellers are registered with the haat committee majority of them are womens. Almost 40 thousand thousand people visit Santinketan per day on popular days and during weekends. Owing to the location of the place there is hardly any proper washroom for the thousand of people especially women present there.
Ganesh Ghosh owner of Shakuntala Village resort said “Situation is quite grave here , tourists visiting Sonajhuri Haat request us to use resort room toilets but on busy days when rooms are full we’re unable to help outside tourists, there is one public toilet in the area constructed by gram panchayat but there is no provision for water there making the toilet non functional”. Even the local sellers and female artisans who stay there for the whole day have no proper rest room to freshen up or change.
MD Mahinuddin member of Haat Committee said “Tourists as well as local sellers especially women suffer due to unavailability of toilets in the haat area. During busy times it is not possible for artisans to leave the shop and go to the jungle which is not nearby. Holding urine also causing health issues. Not only women, We men also demand a clean toilet. In Islam men also need to wash themselves after toilet which is scientific also”.
Previously there were two toilets in the Mela ground Santiniketan area but with university building walls around its campus these toilets became inaccessible to the public. Pawan Agarwala a local resident of Santiniketan and owner of Mud House said “Unavailability of clean toilets is spoiling tourism as no one will enjoy shopping with a bladder full of urine”.
Asmita Roy who visited Santiniketan. “I came here from Kolkata with. This was our first trip after covid. My aged parents too wanted to come along but my mother is diagnosed with urinary tract infection and covid made public toilet fear much worse in our family.
Women are always concerned about the next clean toilet available while travelling. This concern influences their eating choices. Almost the majority of women don’t drink anything while travelling. Majority of the people answered they travel weekly through highways. Whereas equal percentages of people travel either weekly or monthly. They mainly travel by car and others in a scattered way through bus, bike, train cycle etc. 97% hardly get a suitable locale on any highways they travel. Even if they manage to find a toilet for emergencies, neither of them are facilitated with a rest room or changing room, proper availability of water, clean and safe toilet etc.
Almost 40% of people don’t prefer eating food on their way as well. Others, who prefer eating, choose homemade food over others. Some opt for roadside Dhabas and some depend completely on its availability in the locality. At any time people’s first priority is a clean toilet over good food as they hardly get clean toilets on highways.
Out of the many burning issues of women safety and hygiene, a clean toilet outside your own residence is a necessity. The issue has been hardly looked after by any of the higher officials at the government level. It is due to project Eloo and its interaction with common people, that such issues are coming up. Be it Chhattisgarh or West Bengal or any other state, more than 90% of the people clearly want safe and hygiene toilets on the highway. Apart from this, availability of good and hygiene food comes second in their priority list.
About the Author: I am Diptendu Roy, a journalist working in Bastar and we are part of a peace process led by my colleague Shubhranshu Choudhary in Central India. During this time I started working on a chain of toilets on NHAI in LWE areas of Bastar for livelihood of tribals. I am a fellow at School for social entrepreneurs run by the Chhattisgarh Government, Peacetech Lab, USA and US Consulate General, Mumbai. I am working on sustainable toilets on National highways. My project eloo is incubated at Atal Incubation Centre, 36INC run by Chhattisgarh Government and Niti Ayog.
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