New Delhi: It does come as a surprise that Ludhiana, which is one of the industrial hubs of the country and among the list of cities to be developed as a Smart City by the government, doesn’t have separate toilets for women in its police stations – be it staff or visitors. That a basic amenity has been missing for so long at a key institution like a police station across the city, highlights just how deep rooted the problem of sanitation and hygiene is in India. To add to the disbelief, Punjab just declared itself Open Defecation Free (ODF) on October 2.
Under its ‘Swachh and Swasth (Clean and Healthy) Punjab Mission’, an initiative by the Punjab Government, nearly 3 lakh (2,93,925) household toilets were constructed in 13,726 villages in 12,971 gram panchayats in 147 blocks of 22 districts, but it seems none for the female staff and visitors in the police station.
Despite the ODF status, only 10 per cent of the police stations in the city of Ludhiana have toilets for women, the rest of the toilets are either only for men or common washrooms, which are not well-kept. Majority of the Ludhiana female constables are forced to manage in different ways to relieve themselves – using the nearest public washroom or even resort to requesting their male counter parts to let them use the male restrooms. This did not just apply to the police officers but also to the female visitors.
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After struggling for years, Ludhiana Police Commisionerate has finally signed a Memorandum of Understanding (Mou) with Bharti Foundation under the aegis of Satya Bharti Abhiyan, to build toilets for women staff and visitors in 40 police stations, offices and police posts, throughout the city that do not provide the sanitation facility for women at present.
The initiative is expected to benefit close to 200 female constables on a daily basis and about 56,000 women on an annual basis.
Talking to NDTV, Vijay Chadda, CEO, Bharti Foundation elaborated on the MoU, Satya Bharti Abhiyan has delivered over 18000 household toilets in rural and urban parts of Ludhiana and Amritsar and also constructed female toilets in 14 Government schools, which did not have one. In continuation to this, we are happy to work with the Ludhiana Police Commisionerate to provide toilets for women staff and visitors in 40 police stations/chowkis etc., in the district.
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According to a Ludhiana lady constable, the washrooms are ‘long-awaited’, “we have been forced to use the common washrooms for years now and on behalf of most of the female cops, I can say that we are not comfortable with the hygiene condition in those toilets,” she said.
I live approximately 5 kms from the police station where I have to report, and I prefer not to relieve myself in the common lavatories. I often avoid liquid intakes at work so that I don’t have to use the toilet and when I absolutely need to relieve myself, I prefer to rush back home instead of using the toilets here, added another female police officer.
As per Bharati Foundation, the washrooms will be of brick and mortar structure, equipped with western as well as Indian style toilets. For easy maintenance and hygiene, they have decided to use tiles on the floor and the walls. The washrooms will also have incinerator installed to help with easy and on-site disposal of sanitary napkins. And will have connection to existing water and electricity supply as well as to the existing sewage disposal scheme.
Satya Bharti Abhiyan is also responsible for an MoU signed with the Department of Water Supply and Sanitation (DWSS), Government of Punjab in 2017, providing financial assistance to the beneficiaries identified by DWSS in rural Amritsar for construction of 20,000 toilets. In addition to the individual household toilets, 14 Government schools in rural Ludhiana identified by Punjab Education Development Board, were also provided a separate toilet for girls.
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Talking about the achievements of the Satya Bharti Abhiyan, Mr. Chadda added that apart from providing access to toilet to every household not having one, changing the mindset of the residents to make them adopt practice sanitary habits was key to the success of the initiative.
We implemented the mission with a three pronged approach, firstly comes transparency in implementation, which means informing and empowering the community and stakeholders to inculcate ownership. Second is provision of toilets and third comes Information and Education Campaigns (IEC) which help in transforming general attitude by promoting healthy sanitation practices.
Access to toilets for all, is one of the key aspects of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014. In that light, mere construction of tolilets is not enough as the state of Ludhiana’s police station highlights. It is important to ensure that the sanitation facilities are available for every sections of the public and not selectively.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.