In Loving Memory Of…

A light has gone out of our lives, but our happy memories remain - Rohini

Thinking of you always - Usha

We shall miss you dearly with much love and affection” - Kiran

Gone but never forgotten - Anjum

Forever in our thoughts - Manoj

“Wishing you peace and comfort” - Supriya

It was a sad demise and unfortunate. May the family find enough strength and courage in this stressful time. It’s a huge loss to our community.

You all must be wondering who is the loved one we are talking about. And how this loved one impacted our lives. With heavy heart and sorrow, we hereby inform you that our dearest toilets left for their heavenly abode recently. These toilets were survived by the communities members, of M- East ward. In remembrance to them, we held a condolence meet from 11th November to 19th November, at 13 different locations. We were touched to see the overwhelming response from everyone, just makes it so clear that everyone loved them so much.

We won’t be surprised if this all seems a little absurd to you. But we were left with no other alternative to seek attention of the authorities, responsible for not maintaining these community toilets. Here is the detailed plan of action of our condolence meetings-

BMC has broken many toilets in every ward; these toilets are ill -maintained. For more than six years, the condition of these toilets have remained the same. Taking this issue into account, the vigilance committee decided to act against this on World Toilet Day, ie. 19th November. We planned to conduct condolence meet in all these wards. The first ever meet was conducted in 148 ward. That toilet was broken for 6 months. We held discussion sessions with the residents there. We informed them about why we wanted to do these condolence meetups. Just when we were all set to light the candles, we were stopped by the politicians. They asked us to not conduct any condolence meeting near that particular toilet. The very next step taken by our RTP Activist Supriya was to click the photo of the toilet and sent it to the nagar sevak. The immediate reaction by the BMC authorities was that, they started construction of that toilet, from the very next day.

What Shok Sabha?

Our aim was to seek attention of the BMC authorities. We had completed the entire dissemination process this year in May. And for the six months, we were chasing BMC to follow up on the report we had submitted. They even put out a list of toilets which toilets will be broken and which toilets given be given a notice; need repair and maintenance, in which ward. We waited for two months for the BMC to take the action they promised to take. They kept giving excuses like rains, elections etc. for not doing what they were expected to do. There was no response. Hence, we decided to do something about it. We zeroed down on the date 19th November (World Toilet Day), to create our campaign around it. When we brainstormed, it was decided that we will do something around the demolished toilets, because these toilets are the worst kinds. With sewage and garbage on all sides, mosquitoes, open drainage and gutter etc. have caused the spread of diseases in the communities. We wanted the people to give us attention. But how to do it was our serious concern. Then we thought, “don’t we conduct condolence meeting for people who die? Then, why can’t we do the same with our toilets? The toilets which are no more alive”. We shortlisted toilets, which were - 1. demolished and surrounded by tons of garbage 2. prone to accidents 3. inaugurated but not in use. Example of one such toilet is - adjacent to the railway tracks of Mankurd station, on heaps of garbage, above the drainage is a toilet used by the people residing in Police Beat area in Mankurd. It is basically a mere plastic cover which is actually installed by the people themselves. It is so dangerous that people using the same can be seriously injured or may even lose their lives. The residents of this area cannot use the toilets from other communities, as they are very far from their homes. It is impossible for women and girls to go that far at night time. Also, they cannot afford to pay 2-3 Rs daily to use those toilets. The only option they have is to go out in the open. Few even do that. While others just use the plastic cover cum toilet.

We conducted condolence meetings at 13 such toilets. We collected altogether 720 signatures from the people gathered at the meetup.

We had decided to make vigilance committees of the people from the communities there. We have been working with these people for past one year and a half. These are the same people who desperately want to bring change in their communities. We had already identified 10-15 people from each ward, to be a part of this committee. It is not yet on paper, but these people are well aware of their responsibilities.

We used loudspeakers to gather people on the spot. Every condolence meet had more than 50 and less than 150 people attending it. We even wrote a letter to be submitted at the ward office, where we detailed out the working/ non working condition of these 13 toilets. We mentioned that the reason we are doing this condolence meet is because the BMC isn’t doing anything about these ill-maintained toilets. They are as good as dead. This letter had the signature of all the people present at the condolence meet. We dispatched these 13 letters in a file, after two days of World Toilet Day, at the ward office. We were successful in getting the attention of the media persons as well. This campaign got published in various newspapers and got discussed on Radio as well.

Ward Officers of Maintenance Department began contacting us on seeing the campaign being captured by the media, throughout the campaign week, urging us to discontinue with the condolence meetings. We promised to meet them only after 19th (once the campaign was over). During this phase, the ward officer changed. A new ward officer had joined in November, while we had been working with another officer for a year and half. After seeing the news, he requested us to meet him but we had informed that we would be meeting them only after the campaign. In the main BMC office, we met Mr. Ashok Khere, in order to present the updates about M East ward. In that meeting, we presented all the letters and signatures collected from the campaign. We also presented our findings from the campaign. In that meeting, everyone associated with the ward was present. Our RTP activists presented their findings of each ward they work in. We gave them written and photographic evidence. Owing to the presentations, the ward officers connected us with various engineers for each ward. Similarly, our contacts were also shared with them, so that they call us for any further queries.

The main highlight of this campaign is that construction work of the toilets have already begun. In the coming months, we will be focusing on basic amenities like light and water, and someone to maintain it, at local level eg. local CBO.

The campaign resulted with following impact -

1. Round table meetings with Assistant commissioner

2. Ward Officers on field : 28 joint meetings with community , CBOs & contractors

3. 4 joint Meetings with NGOs & 27 community joint meetings with NGOs who are in the formation of community based organisations

We plan to create a concrete vigilance committee in each area where we held shok sabhas, which will have all the stakeholders in that committee. We have identified 20 such places to build a strong vigilance team, who would work for the communities even in our absence.

- By Team Right To Pee