Before Long Weekends, Better Facilities Must Be In Place, Demands Online Petition
A tin shed with no water, prickly bushes, soiled floors – bathrooms on the road are a no go for most women. While safety is a concern on highways, especially at night, the lack of proper restrooms makes long distance journeys an ordeal. With the long weekends coming up -Independence Day (Monday), Bakrid on September 13 (Tuesday) and Onam on the next day, long distance bus passengers are demanding better facilities at stopovers.
K Mala, of T Nagar, prepares herself mentally every time she takes a bus to Bengaluru. She does not drink water during the seven-hour long journey and eats only a light snack, mostly biscuits. “I carry a small water bottle for emergency, I sip from it only when I am parched,” she said.
She, like many other women, is averse to using public bathrooms, opting not to eat or drink over using the filthy highway restrooms, which she feels are dingy and unsafe. Taking up this concern, at least one lakh people have signed an online petition urging the Union ministry of road transport and highways to build cleaner and safer toilets along highways.
The petition says many men do not have a problem relieving themselves in the open but women are left with unhygienic or dangerous options like a bush, with strange men lurking around. “Once in a while there might be paid toilets. Even here, the hygiene is horrible,” said Bangalore-based N V Vasudeva Sharma, who started the online petition. Most toilets do not have water or dustbins for women to dispose sanitary pads. “It’s definitely a problem. I just cannot use a dirty toilet,” said Mala.
Late last year, a survey of 32,000 travellers from more than 80 Indian cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Pune by HolidayIQ, a travel information portal, showed nearly 98% of women asked for better toilets.
Toilets are a major problem when using public transport as it depends on the bus driver when and where the stops for refreshments are made. The Tamil Nadu Omni Bus Owners Association president A Afzal says the bus operators must ensure that drivers stop at designated places that have been inspected by the company. “Right now, most operators don’t have a clue. The bus drivers stop at a place they receive free food,” he said.
For government buses, stops are predesignated and most of them lack proper toilet facilities said a Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation driver Bala. “I stop at a restaurant in Mamandur when on route to Tiruvannamalai but most women passengers don’t use it. Later, they make a request for emergency stops and I oblige,” said Bala. Officials at the State Express Transport Corporation claim to do a prior check of the facilities available at the designated pit-stops for their buses. “Passengers can make specific complaints, if any,” an official said.