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Unsafe sanitation: Ahmedabad slum struggles with open defecation, non-functional toilets

By Rachit Gupta, Rishabh Bansal, Saurav S, Siddhika Parekh* 

A distressing situation in the Jogrimatanichali area near Bhavan College/Cama Hotel was brought to our attention by a group of students from the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM Ahmedabad) who raised the alarm over the deplorable living conditions faced by the residents, including rampant open defecation, non-functional public toilets, and the prevailing practice of manual scavenging.
The students' investigation revealed a dire state of sanitation facilities in Jogrimatanichali. Despite Ahmedabad being declared Open Defecation Free (ODF), the reality on the ground seems to paint a different picture. A lack of functioning public toilets with proper drainage and water supply infrastructure has forced residents to resort to open defecation. Photographs taken by us suggest inadequate and unusable condition of dry toilets without proper drainage systems.
There are a number of paid toilets were in operation, exploiting the basic dignity of residents. These paid facilities, which were expected to offer running water, failed to do so, leaving users to transport water from their homes for flushing. The unsanitary conditions within these facilities pose a grave risk to residents' health and well-being.
Then there are 6-7 toilets with water supply that are “paid” toilets. Based on interactions with the local residents, it came to light that a contractor collects money from the residents as tax for using the toilet every Sunday. They are unsure whether this money is collected officially or not. If not, then this amounts to exploiting their need to protect their fundamental dignity.
A close look at these toilets showed that they also didn’t have running water. People had to carry water from their homes to flush. You can imagine the extent of the cleanliness, odour and hygiene in these toilets. Furthermore, the one wash basin outside these toilets was leaking, and all the water was getting wasted, again of no use to the residents.
There are two mobile toilet vans in the area again without any water supply or drainage to flush out the sludge. These, instead, seem to be breeding grounds for unruly elements in society doing wrongful activities.

Manual scavenging and safety hazards

Perhaps even more disturbing is the prevalence of manual scavenging in the area. The students encountered a woman engaged in cleaning the open defecation areas and toilets without any safety equipment or protection. Manual scavengers in the area are risking their health and safety due to the lack of proper gear and resources to carry out their work safely.
The students, upon discovering the dire situation, took several steps to address the issues. They communicated with people in charge, urging immediate action to clean and refurbish the existing toilets while ensuring a consistent water supply. However, the response from them was disheartening, citing a land ownership dispute as a barrier to resolving the problem.
Grave sanitation crisis in Jogrimatanichali sparks urgent appeal for intervention. The students want to thus make their plea to the concerned authorities to urgently request the following steps to be taken:
  1. Provide necessary resources for drainage facilities and water supply to make public toilets functional.
  2. Ensure proper safety equipment and protective gear for individuals engaged in sanitation work, particularly manual scavengers.
There are complexities involved in tackling such issues but it is important to also emphasize the extreme nature of the situation in Jogrimatanichali. Immediate intervention is essential to safeguard the residents' dignity, hygiene, and health.
The students' collective effort shines a spotlight on the urgent need for action in Jogrimatanichali. By addressing these pressing concerns, the relevant authorities can uphold the well-being and dignity of the area's residents. The students remain hopeful that their appeal will lead to swift and effective action, ultimately transforming the distressing living conditions into a safer and more dignified environment for all.
There is hope that, in line with India's 77th Independence Day celebrations and the Swachch Bharat initiative, immediate and impactful action would be taken to address these pressing concerns.
*Students of IIM Ahmedabad



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