Miles to go before we can call ourselves truly SwachhWhile Gujarat’s cities were declared open defecation free last year by the union urban development minister, thousands residing in shanties at Gandhi Bridge, Gheekanta, Navrangpura and Gyaspur are still forced to defecate in the open for want of enough toilets

As the nation celebrates Swachhta Divas today, Mirror finds out that Ahmedabad may have a long way to go before wiping out the ignominy of open defecation. While last year, the then union urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu had declared all 180 cities and towns of Gujarat open defecation free, the truth is for everyone to see. A peek just under the Gandhi Bridge on the eastern end of the bridge along the Sabarmati Riverfront early morning or late in the evening will give you ample proof that Ahmedabad is not open defecation free.In areas where the poor and the migrants reside -along railway tracks and on the fringes of the city -people and unfortunately even the women are forced to answer nature’s call out in the open. Problems for families living in shanties along the railway line behind Sardar Patel Stadium have increased manifold ever since the Metro Rail Project has picked up pace in their area.

“We used to live in shanties in a noman’s land between the stadium and the railway line from 1989 to 2001. However, we were abruptly evicted from our hutments in 2001 and have been living beside the railway line ever since,“ Devshi Rathod (70) told Mirror.Rathod said two public toilets, one at Navrangpura and the other at Usmanpura, are at about 1km distance from where they stay.

“Not just men, even women are forced to defecate along the railway line in the open. Besides, women are forced to complete their routine before daybreak. It is a huge problem.“

He claimed that while the civic body has been asked to make alternate living arrangements for them, nothing has happened so far.

His son Dharmendra Rathod (50) said, “My 16-year-old daughter also goes out in the open to attend nature’s call. I do get worried for her. We are about 50 people living in the shanties and there are more women than men.All of us use the railway tracks. Even workers working on the Metro use these tracks as toilets.“ Rathod’s relative Aartiben Koshti (26) said, “We need to use the tracks before 5.30 am. It is impossible to use the tracks during daytime.“

16 pvt mobile urinals not enough for thousands

At Canadi Pol in Gheekanta, there are around 16 private mobile urinals and these are dirty most of the time because of lack of water. But these are not enough for the thousands of people who live here and in the adjoining pols.

Sonia Datania (40), a housewife who resides at Canadi Pol, said, “I have seen men defecating on the opposite street early in the day. Only three of the five toilets for women are usable.“

Arun Rathod (62) the caretaker at the toilet said, “Men drink inside the toilets and throw the plastic inside the commode that gets choked. It is a tough job to remove them.“

Sonu Dantani (21) who works at a private press told Mirror, “I defecate in the open because toilets are dirty.“

Raju Dantani, who claimed to be a social worker said, “The drainage lines here are choked and nobody cleans them properly. We have started a campaign against open defecation here.“

Sonia Dantani said, “CCTVs are needed outside the toilets as these become a drinking den during the night.“

Jayanti Devipujak (53) and Chandubhai Devipujak (60), who reside in a chawl near Gandhi Bridge, do not have toilets at home.

Of 4,000 houses, 50 per cent do not have toilets at home

“There are about 4,000 houses in the vicinity and 50 per cent do not have toilets at home. The rest too have problems as drainage lines are choked, making it impossible for use. Even the few toilets that are there are not enough for this population.“

Kishan Vaghela, who deals in used oil tins, opened the toilets here to show how unclean they were. “There is no water in tanks near men toilets and even I defecate out in the open,“ Vaghela said.

His neighbours Bharat Vaghela (34), Balvant Vaghela (50), Pradip Vaghela (26), Malabhai Chauhan (60) and Arun Dantani (34) too are forced to defecate in the open as the men’s to ilets are mostly dirty.

In Gyaspur, located at the farther end of Sabarmati Riverfront, men and women both defecate in the open.Prahlad Thakor said, “Most of us here are farm labourers or have rented the farms for the season. There are no toilets here and we have to use the area near the farms to relieve ourselves.“

`At least build toilets for women’

Karsan Rathore (27), who has been renting the farms for the past 25 years, said, “It would be of great help if the AMC builds toilets here for our women.“ His wife Geeta Rathore (26) and his brother’s wife Hansaben (23) both said that it is with great sense of shame that they go out to defecate in the open.

“There are about 400 people living in the area and all of them defecate in the open,“ said Kalubhai Patel (39).

Dr Bhavin Solanki, AMC’s officer in-charge of health and the in-charge of city’s campaign against open defecation said, “People just need to write an application to us and we will construct public toilets in a month’s time.Even in case of lack of toilets or an adverse toilets to population ratio, people just need to send in an application and we will make immediate arrangements of mobile toilets where necessary or even construct toilets.“