There are 4 public toilets in total in Rafi Nagar area of Shivaji Nagar, and other than this there are wooden makeshift toilets built by the community members at the end of the lanes (near the nala), which only they have access to. Very few houses have their own toilets. These cater to the sanitation need of about 45,000 people living in Rafi Nagar everyday.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown, it was announced by the government that no user fee would be charged for usage of toilets but that does not seem to have percolated to the ground reality in Shivaji Nagar.
According to Azad (18) who lives in Rafi Nagar, the fee for the community toilets used to be 2 rupees before the lockdown. Now, it has increased to 3 rupees and in some cases, 5 rupees even. This has pushed a population that is already struggling to make ends meet, to begin with, discard the whole process of using toilets. People have started to use the dumping ground as a place for open defecation more often than not.
The people have now started to use the dumping ground as a place for open defecation more often than not. There has been a significant rise in the use of the makeshift wooden toilets inside the lanes, but they are only available to the people living in that lane only.
“People living inside my lane are still using the toilets, even though the price has increased so much, but most of the people of Rafi Nagar have started using the dumping ground, for their daily sanitary requirements. What can we even say to them, given the increase in the prices?”asked Azad.
In July of 2019, the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission, issued a suo-moto judgement that the number of toilets vis-a-vis the number of people living in Shivaji Nagar is wildly out of proportion, after an Apnalaya report on the matter. This landmark judgement issued, ordered the MCGM to increase the capacity of toilet seats by 3 times the existing number available. Till now, the work on these have not been started, forcing people to use the toilets that are already present. The issue of toilets has always been a sore point in Shivaji Nagar, with too many people living in such close quarters that it is impossible for every household to have separate toilets. And hence most people end up using the public toilets that are available.
The work on the toilet construction has stalled due to the COVID-19 lockdown, and has increased the pressure on the toilets that are currently functioning.