Much has been said about sanitation challenges of rural India. In this article, we are going to discuss another aspect of sanitation – the public sanitation infrastructure in Indian cities and other places of significance (or the absence of it).

A well-developed public toilet system is a matter of national prestige. It is one of the parameters to measure a country’s socio-economic progress. A well-developed public toilet system reflects people’s awareness level with regard to hygiene and sanitation. Unfortunately, India has not yet made any significant breakthrough in this space. Here are a few scenarios to give you an idea about the BIG picture. These all are real stories concerning real people but the names have been changed to protect their identity.

Scenario #1: Sarita Khandelwal, a woman in her early thirties, has to commute for more than two hours daily to reach the college where she is a lecturer. She switches conveyance three times, boarding a train first, then a bus and ultimately taking an autorickshaw that drops her at her college gate. In between, there are sprints between the railway station to the bus stand, long waits in the queues, and more. Nowhere on the route does she find a proper, clean and safe restroom that can be used in case of an emergency. Sometimes, she braves the stink and filth to use the public toilet in the bus terminus. If it’s late evening, she doesn’t dare to do that even, as the unmanned and deserted toilet complexes neither have security cameras nor are they well-lit. And there have been cases of atrocities in or near public toilets. The outcome? Urinary tract infection, absence from work, depression and a substantial medical expense.

Scenario #2: Sharbani Sen from Kolkata went on a trip to a hill station in North East India. While visiting a famous viewpoint, she went to use the restroom in the complex. To her horror, she found that no unit in the complex had a proper locking system. Several people – men and women – were using those semi-open toilets despite the lack of privacy. Disgusted, she came back without relieving herself. Utter discomfort was what followed.

Scenario #3: Saikat Barua from Tripura went to visit a famous temple in the deep South along with his full family. By the time, he completed the ‘Darshan’ after standing in the queue for four long hours, the entire family was in desperate need to use a restroom. The stinking, overcrowded toilet complex made them sick. Given the huge number of devotees that visit the temple every day, it was hardly surprising that the complex was in such a horrible state. Keeping them clean manually round the clock is undoubtedly a mammoth task.

With a closer analysis of the three above-mentioned instances, we can actually single out the following gaps in India’s public sanitation system that call for immediate attention:

  • • Inadequate numbers of public toilets
  • • Poor quality of those already available
  • • Existing toilets being fraught with hygiene issues
  • • Without proper locks and lighting, they are unsafe, especially for women

To address all these problems, an ideal sanitation solution must come complete with all these qualities:

  • • Easy to keep clean
  • • Low-on-maintenance
  • • Well supplied with water or equipped with an auto-cleaning feature
  • • Equipped with a reliable locking mechanism
  • • Well-lit
  • • Security

Not clearIn short, India needs a one-stop sanitation solution that is sturdy, long-lasting, easy to maintain and keep clean, safe, and user-friendly at once. Getting all these in one solution may apparently seem like too much to ask for. It is, to some extent. Blame it on the existing socio-cultural milieu of the country, as well as their inherent constructional shortcomings, traditional toilets cannot make much difference with this respect. This is where urban planners need to take a paradigm shift from the conventional to the innovative. It’s high time that they think scientifically, and out-of-the-box, move over brick-and-mortar and embrace a new age solution.

It will be worthwhile to mention that you can actually find such advanced sanitation solutions in the Indian markets now. One of India’s most trusted brands, Tata Steel has ventured into this space. Nest-In from the house of Tata Steel offers a line of advanced sanitation solutions under the label of EzyNest Smart Toilets. Complete with a range of innovative features, these solutions fully justify their nomenclature –‘smart’. How’s that? Let’s find out.

  • • Equipped with automatic pre-flush and post-flush features, it’s easy to keep the unit clean round the clock, with minimal manual intervention. In addition, automatic power-spray cleaning at regular intervals helps maintain interior hygiene throughout
  • • Reframe thisBased on customer requirement, they even allow for the installation of several add-ons. Solar panels, air-conditioners, audio-visual system, and sanitary napkin vending machine and incinerator, and ad-display facilities are examples of some of the ways, customers can enhance their smart toilet units. You can take a look at their offering here.

Providing cities with hygienic public toilets is vital to ensure the health and convenience of commuters, tourists and hundreds and thousands of people who need to spend long hours outdoors for professional and other reasons. It is high time that we embrace a solution that looks smart and acts smart – it has to be a fitting intelligent solution for a smarter, better tomorrow.