other small luxuries. They're an apt, if quirky, symbol of a
city known for its pluck and ingenuity.
When Dayanand Jadhav first asked if people in his Khar slum would pay for
a well-maintained toilet, there was serious opposition. Since no
government official or politician seemed to be involved, they thought
this was a scheme to collect money from them and make a beer bar, Jadhav
says. Today Jadhav, in a display of kitschy artistry, has a garden filled
with ornaments of waste material outside the toilet. They run a computer
and English classes and a nursery in a little room above the toilets,
which helps pare the fees. Govandi's Navdisha toilet has a newspaper
stand and a television so people can stay busy while they wait. Already
there are more than half-a-dozen such "television toilets" in
While the toilets are run on a no profit, no loss basis, the committees
sometimes make enough money for frills like libraries or newspapers. But
this success underscores the crisis of Mumbai's sanitation system.
Shabana has come to use the Cheetah Camp toilet today although she lives
far from it and finds it expensive. But the toilet closest to her, a
free-for-use municipality one, has no water or electricity. A woman fell
in and got stuck there the night before. So, the burkha-clad Shabana must
either wait for nightfall to sit on the street for this most private act,
or pay and come here.
face the brunt of the problem. Municipality toilets clog up as often as
once a week, are poorly maintained and are unusable at night because
there is no electricity. They are also infested with drunks or drug
addicts. Asked what she did before the toilet in her area was built,
Dharavi's Sevanti Salunkhe says simply: "I would wait for
sunset." Today, post a Rs 40 crore World Bank loan to the
Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and direct involvement of the users, a
family could spend between Rs 10 and Rs 30 a month to use a clean toilet.
Channel wars are played out as men stand in queue at television toilets,
others attend English or computer classes, and children are learning to
use their special seats. People are beginning to enjoy living without the
stink from open defecation and without the illnesses that stemmed from
Of course, the World Bank's policy of making the poor pay for basic
services has often raised hackles. But the choice is between toilets
being free but unavailable, and available for a small fee. "Now
people know they can get a toilet if enough people in the area want
one," says Jockin Arputham, whose ngo sparc led the construction
work. The corporation now gets dozens of applications for making new
toilets each month. So, it has made a much more ambitious proposal for a
Rs 700 crore loan, which will be used not only to make toilets but also
to connect them to newly-made sewer lines.Meanwhile, several other cities
in other states are working on the same lines. Pune already has 114;
Tiruppur in Tamil Nadu will soon get toilets built by communities with
loans from the city's textile mill owners; Visakhapatnam, Benares and
some other cities too have plans.
J. Shubha, who lives in Cheetah Camp, says she loves the new toilet but
uses it only when she has to because she can't afford to come more often.
The toilet committee has used the fees to buy the only ambulance
available in the area, on instalments. Once that is paid for, they want
to start subsidised tuitions for school children, in the toilet, of
course. In Mumbai's slums, the ideal may never be an option. But taking
an opportunity and making the most of it, that's a Mumbai speciality.