- 1,500 mobile toilets have been kept across the city for the devotees
- Pandharpur boasts of having the biggest toilet complex in the world
- Pandharpur was declared open defecation free in May
New Delhi: Like every year, lakhs of people will join the the Aashadhi Yatra that initiates from Maharashtra‘s Pune district on June 28 and ends 16 days later at Pandharpur in Solapur district. With only 10-15 hotels available for the pilgrims in this holy town and merely 18,000 households, majority of the devotees have to depend on community or public toilets to relive themselves. With insufficient public toilets, people defecated in open along the rivers and lakes, and hence the state government gave 100 crores for building toilet complexes a few years back. The Sulabh International was also roped in to ease the work of local government.
The state government took this decision after a Public Interest Litigation was filed in the state High Court showcasing the harsh reality behind the rath yatra. The state government issued a guideline to the Pandharpur Municipal Council (PMC) wherein for every 40 devotees 1 toilet must be available. Under the ‘Nirmal Wari’ initiative, the government constructed 3,000 public toilets in about 23 toilet complexes. Today, Pandharpur boasts of the biggest toilet complex in the world said Abhijeet Bapat, Chief Officer, PMC. 1,500 mobile toilets have also been kept across the city.
The Rath Yatra which has been taking place since years, have a peculiar custom of treating the devotees. 18,000 households of the city not only welcome the pilgrims but also provide them accommodation said Mr Bapat, “For generations people have been staying in local houses as very less number of hotels are available.” Hence 18,000 toilet seats are provided by the locals.
For decades, the devotees had no option but to defecate in open which had drastically affected the water bodies, The conditions of the town post the yatra would be terrible as there were merely 300-400 public toilets in the town. From last 2-3 years, the situation has considerably improved thanks to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, said Mr Bapat.
These toilet complexes have completely changed the scenario in the town. Swachh Bharat has had its impact with many of the people living in nearby slum areas, now coming forward to construct toilets. Instead of defecating in the open, more and more people are using the community toilets, said Shikhare, worker at a toilet complex near Vitthal Temple.
To ensure that people use these toilet complexes, the civic body has deployed a team of 50 workers who will monitor all corners of the city especially ones close to lakes and rivers. 24-hour surveillance will begin from next week onwards said Mr Bapat.
Pandharpur was declared open defecation free (ODF) in May this year and we don’t know want any kind of disturbance in the status and hence the civic body took the decision to construct another 1,800 public toilets which will be ready by the next Rath Yatra, said Mr Bapat.
Apart from this massive religious yatra, three other small yatras also take place throughout the year and in every of these yatras around 3-4 lakh of devotes come in. Since Pandharpur is considered the ‘Centre of Bhakti’ in Maharashtra, 10 to 15 thousand visit the town people every weekend round the year and hence constructing permanent toilets became the need of the hour for PMC added Mr Bapat.