3 in 5 persons at farmer protest sites near Delhi have to defecate in open: Survey

Inadequate provisioning of toilets compromising health, nutrition and hygiene for all protesters, especially women, survey by Jan Swasthya Abhiyaan concludes

1 in 3 people at farmer protest sites near Delhi have to defecate in open: Survey

Free sanitary pads for women protesters at Singhu, arranged by voluneteers. Photo: @PunYaab / Twitter
  Free sanitary pads for women protesters at Singhu, arranged by voluneteers. Photo: @PunYaab / Twitter

No drinking water at farmers’ protest sites; elderly persons vulnerable

Lack of clean drinking water, mobile toilets and sanitation at the five protest sites at Delhi border where farmers have congregated pose a grave health hazard, finds a survey conducted by the People’s Health Movement.

The rapid assessment survey conducted between December 19 and 22 at five sites — Singhu, Tikri, Shahjahanpur, Gazipur and Palwal — recorded responses from 201 participants. Nearly 36% of the respondents were below 36 years of age, 26% were more than 49 years old but below 65 years and around 14% were 65 or above.

According to the study, nearly all respondents said there was no drinking water facility made available by the government and they were mostly dependent on either packaged water or tanks arranged by volunteers. Similarly, water for non-drinking purposes like cleaning, bathing, washing, etc. too was arranged by volunteers (70%) and local residents (18.5%). Only 5.8% respondents said they were able to access supply through government water tanks.

More than half of the respondents (57.5.%) said they had to defecate in the open. The percentage was higher at places like Singhu border where the highest number of protesters have gathered with seven in 10 respondents saying they were forced to defecate in the open. Only one in 10 respondents was able to use mobile toilets arranged by various local and State governments.

Skin infections, aggravated diabetess

As a result, many complained of skin infections at various health camps. The elderly protesters were at a higher risk because of their pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Many of them had reported at medical camps with wound infections because of aggravated diabetes. Protesters sleeping inside the tents or below trucks or tractors despite cold temperatures are also vulnerable to flu.

The People’s Health Movement, which represents 21 networks and more than 150 organisations working on making health care services accessible, demands that the State governments not abdicate their responsibility towards the protesters and ensure basic amenities are extended as well as staff from local bodies are deployed to ensure sanitation.

Three in five persons at the several farmer protest sites near the national capital are having to defecate in the open, compromising their health, a new survey by the Jan Swasthya Abhiyaan (JSA) has said.

Women protestors are especially forgoing food and water in order to avoid going to toilets that are poorly provisioned, according to a press statement released by the JSA January 11, 2021 said.

The rapid assessment survey was carried out by the Delhi and Haryana chapters of the JSA between December 19 and December 22, 2020 at five protest sites: Singhu, Tikri, Shahjahanpur, Gazipur and Palwal.

A total of 201 respondents were covered from these sites: Singhu (92); Tikri (70); Shahjahanpur (23); Gazipur (12) and Palwal (4).

The JSA is the Indian arm of the global health rights group, People’s Health Movement. It consists of 21 national networks and more than 150 organisations and state level JSA platforms.

Shocking findings

The statement said an inadequate number of mobile toilets and improper maintenance by the authorities had rendered toilets at the sites dirty and unusable, pushing a considerable number of protesters to resort to open defecation.

Almost three in every five respondents — 57.5 per cent — were having to rely on open sites for defecation. Only 10.5 per cent respondents said the toilets were clean, with proper water supply.

Some 47 per cent said the toilets were located in far-off places, creating difficulties in accessing them. “There is no provision of lighting around the toilets making it difficult to use them after dark,” the statement said.

The survey found that many women protesters reported eating less and consuming less water to avoid using toilets.

Overall, only 23.6 per cent of the respondents reported solid waste being disposed of regularly. This number was better in Shahjahanpur, as 56.5 per cent respondents said they had found waste getting disposed of regularly.

However, in Singhu and Tikri, the two biggest protest sites, the waste was gradually getting accumulated and civic bodies were mostly absent.

Most women had to arrange for sanitary pads themselves. As many as 31 per cent had to dispose of the used pads by the side of the roads, in absence of proper disposal facilities by the local authorities, the survey found.

Another growing problem was water stagnation. Around 40 per cent respondents observed that there was water stagnation around the protest sites.

It was most severe at Gazipur where more than nine out of every ten found water stagnation at the site. The situation was also poor in Singhu as 62.7 per cent respondents reported stagnation.

Water stagnation close to the kitchens and langar locations was a major concern, especially with highly visible presence of flies, etc.

The survey found that most efforts to manage solid waste as well as stagnant water were carried out by volunteers themselves, rather than civic authorities.

It was also common people, civil society organisations and gurdwaras that had been so far been arranging food and packaged water for the protestors.

“The support from volunteers, individual citizens and organisations such as Jan Swasthya Abhiyan has been overwhelming and sustaining the struggle so far. However, the state cannot abdicate its responsibility towards its citizens,” Satnam Singh, state coordinator, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan-Haryana and core member of the survey team, was quoted as saying in the statement.

Protestors and their supporters have been left on their own during the severe cold wave conditions in North India. It shows nothing less than a total apathy by various governments. The Central government, state governments of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan and local authorities should provide basic amenities to the protestors such as food, clean water for drinking and other use and cleanliness.

The JSA also demanded that urgent steps be taken by various state governments to ensure that adequate provision was made for the people at all the protest sites.