As Swachch Bharat campaign picks up momentum and the Gujarat government tom-toms the record number of toilets it has built across the state, around 200 families in Vejalpur and Thaltej are literally forced to carry their own excreta and dispose it off daily. The reason: the government has built toilets for them but not provided sewerage lines to dispose it off. According to the Swachch Bharat Mission website, 87.41 per cent of households in the state have been provided with toilets till now.
As Amdavadis line up plans to celebrate the New Year, 150 families in Vejalpur and another 75 in Thaltej have more pertinent problems to deal with. The families, mostly from Dalit and Valmiki communities who earn less than Rs 10,000 per month, are forced to shell out Rs 2,000 on resurfacing the cesspits. To ease their burden, they dispose it of themselves before the cesspit gets filled up. This has been their daily routine for the past one year. Numerous representations and repeated pleas to the civic body have failed to improve their condition.
While Vejalpur councillor Panna Rao claims there is no such problem in her area, Thaltej councillor says gutter connection has been provided. What residents say At 18, Champa Vaghela was forced to stop studying after clearing class 12. Her daily ritual now is to empty an open sink behind the toilet, fill up the waste in a container and throw it out. She belongs to a family of six who reside in Vejalpur. “We have had a toilet for a year, but all the waste gets collected outside which we empty every day. The smell is so strong that our heads start reeling, but we have no solution.
Nobody other than us will clean it,” said Champa. Kiritbhai Kabira has been living in Thaltej for the past 20 years. It was only last year that his family of seven was provided with a toilet under the government’s scheme. Only half the cost was shared by the government, but there is no sewerage connection. “We have been told by civic officials who visit us often that our houses will be demolished for redevelopment and so the sewage line has not been provided. But we cannot control our bowel till we get a connection.” Kabira further shared his agony, “The cesspit adds 2,000 rupees to our expenses when we open it to remove the waste and get it resurfaced.
Other additional problems include absence of streetlights and no pucca road. Development just seems a long way away.” Dashrathbhai is worried about the diseases that his family of six and others will have to face due to the unhygienic conditions created by the open dumping of the waste. Champa Purabia who stays with her grandchildren has a lake full of waste behind her oneroom house. The 55-year-old woman is unaware as to who built the toilet at her place, “It may be an organisation or government. I was happy that after residing here for more than a decade, I would be free from queueing up outside the Sulabh Sauchalaya.
However, that is not to be. Only my two grandchildren use the toilet, otherwise the cesspit will be filled up and we will have to spend money to get it resurfaced. I still stand in the Sulabh line since 5 am to relieve myself and after dark it is open defecation.” Purshottam Vaghela, director of Manav Garima, an NGO that works for the benefit of manhole workers said, “Laws have been made and rules have been framed that makes such work illegal, but it continues unabated. The government’s toilet scheme is just a show off as the toilets have been without the basic gutter connection.”
What officials say Vejalpur councillor Panna Rao claims she is a regular visitor to the area, but has not found such a problem in the area. “Nobody has ever brought this to my notice. But now I will personally check the situation.” Thaltej councillor Laxmi Chaudhary too is unaware of such a situation in her ward. “Cesspit is a long lost system. I have visited families doorto- door, but have not noticed such a problem. And as per government scheme, along with the toilet, gutter connection is also provided. I am amazed to know this.”