Agra, Nov 20 (IANS) Social activists and environmentalists on Monday demanded free, safe and clean public toilets every one kilometer in the Taj city.
Although the city has been declared Open Defacation Free (ODF), with over 16,000 new toilets added, the problem is that most are without water and are rarely cleaned. "If you happen to visit one, you could return with a disease or two after using it," said environmentalist Shravan Kumar Singh.
People across the city, particularly in Dalit areas are using railway tracks and open drains to ease themselves. "This is an ubiquitous sight that draws sarcastic to caustic comments from tourists coming by trains in the morning," says social activist Ranjan Sharma.
Speakers at a meeting, organised at the Goverdhan Hotel by a local NGO Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society, said thousands of tourists, domestic and foreign visit Agra daily, but lack of civic amenities proves a big let-down. With three world heritage monuments, Agra abounds in numerous lesser known historical monuments.
"Many tourists rush back to the hotels to relieve themselves of the pressure, though the Archaeological Survey of India has provided public toilets at the monuments. But if a tourist were to venture out on his own to see the heritage city interiors, he would face serious problems," said activist Rahul Raj.
"When we pay all kinds of taxes, buy bus and rail tickets, why should we pay extra for a service which was so natural and unpredictable?" asked Chaturbhuj Tiwari, a social worker.
Munish Kumar Verma, an activist, questioned the logic of charging extra for using public toilets which are neither clean nor hygienic when citizens already pay house tax, sewer tax and water tax.
Jugal Kishore of the River Connect Campaign said people are still "addicted to doing it in the open. Government agencies have added hundreds of new toilets in recent months but people do not use them. Rather they look for open spaces, perhaps due to our continued rural orientation."
Social activists, health workers and media persons deliberated on various aspects to address the problem. They said a sustained campaign to dissuade people from defecating on the roadside is the need of the hour.