NEW DELHI: The Himachal Pradesh high court has ruled that public convenience facilities along highways are a fundamental right of passengers and tourists.The court was informed that in 2016-17, as many as 84 lakh tourist vehicles entered Himachal Pradesh, a top tourist attraction, carrying nearly 2 lakh visitors. Apart from this, nearly 5,000 buses ply daily on the national highways and state highways crisscrossing the state.
“Shockingly, there are no public conveniences available on these highways, as a result of which public travelling day in and day out on such roads are compelled to urinate/defecate in open causing damage to the ecology as well as causing pollution,” a bench of acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Sandeep Sharma said.
Terming the act of easing oneself in the open as undignified, the bench said forcing people to defecate or urinate in public due to absence of public conveniences was akin to violating their dignity, which was intrinsic to right to life.
“Citizens travelling on state/national highways need to be protected from open defecation, untreated disposal of waste into streams and contamination of water supplies, which could become a big problem with heavy tourist influx coupled with lack of proper civic amenities in the state,” it said and mentioned the signs of various sanitation-linked diseases raising their ugly head in the state.
HP became the second state to get ‘open defecation free’ status. But the statistics provided by amicus curiae Deven Khanna was startling: “Approximately 10 million toilets were constructed between 2006-07 and 2010-11 across the country under Total Sanitation Campaign, but unfortunately, toilets remain largely defunct and are reportedly being used as storerooms.”