As Swachh Bharat Mission turns 9, 42% urban Indians believe availability of public toilets in their city/district has improved; However, Only 10% say they are maintained well; Most prefer visiting a restaurant, hotel or petrol pump to use the toilet there
- ● 52% of respondents indicated that there has been “no improvement” in the state of public toilets
- ● 37% of the respondents found public toilets were “average/ functional”; 25% described them as “below average/ barely functional”
- ● 16% found them “terrible” and 12% found the public toilets “so bad, went but came out without using”
- ● People demand maintenance of existing public toilets be prioritized over building newer ones
October 2, 2023, New Delhi: As India marks nine years of Swachh Bharat Mission on Gandhi Jayanti (October 2’nd 2023) with millions pledging to do more to help achieve the mission objectives, there is definitely a stronger ray of hope that more can be achieved in a more sustainable manner if people, civic bodies and the State/Central Governments work together.
Prior to the launch of Swachh Bharat Mission, though there were public toilets they were inadequate to meet the public needs whether in markets, at religious sites, tourist hubs, railway stations, bus terminus, hospitals or even in low income or slum colonies, where most houses lack a toilet. To bridge this lacunae, the mission has been providing funding to urban local bodies through the states on a cost sharing basis. As of now, 6,36,826 public toilets have been constructed under the Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban, against a target of 5,07,587. Since the launch of the mission, 4,355 urban local bodies have been declared open defecation free (ODF), while 3,547 are ODF+ and 1,191 are ODF++. (The ODF+ category implies toilets with water, maintenance, and hygiene; ODF++ are toilets with sludge and septage management as well).
However, even in cities like Mumbai, Delhi or Bengaluru going to public toilets, unless managed by organisations like Sulabh International or having a system of pay to use, or a highly efficient civic body managing them, is generally a nightmare. The big issue that a large number of people have reported on LocalCircles in the last 3 years has been lack of hygiene, cleanliness and maintenance of public toilets in their area, district or city.
LocalCircles, via a national survey sought to find out the state of public toilets in India and understand what people do when they are on the road and need to use a toilet. The survey received over 39,000 responses from citizens located in 341 districts of India. 69% respondents were men while 31% respondents were women. 47% respondents were from tier 1, 31% from tier 2 and 22% respondents were from tier 3 and 4 districts.
52% urban Indians surveyed indicated that there has been “no improvement” in the availability of functional public toilets in their district/ city
Earlier this year in February, the Delhi High Court sought responses from the Central government, Delhi government and civic authorities on a plea by Jan Seva Welfare Society stating that cleanliness of public toilets is a fundamental right along with availability of clean water and electricity supply. The survey sought to know from citizens “How has the availability of functional public toilets in your district/ city improved in the last 3 years?” This query received 12,914 responses with 52% of respondents indicating that there has been “no improvement”; 3% stating that the situation has in fact “gotten worse”; 30% however felt there has been “significant improvement “ in the condition of public toilets in their district/city; 12% feel that the condition has “significantly improved” and 3% opted for “can’t say”. In sum, 42% of Indians surveyed say availability of functional public toilets in their district/ city has improved in the last 3 years.
Only 18% of urban Indians surveyed stated that they or their family members use public toilets
Though some of the state governments and courts have directed that restaurants, petrol pumps, motels and hotels should make clean toilet facilities available to the general public, many times the facilities are so bad or insecure that people are forced bear the discomfort of not being able to relieve themselves or take the risk of using the available facilities. The survey sought to know from citizens “When you or your family have to use a toilet in public places in your city/ district, what do you generally do?” This query received 13,701 responses with 43% indicating that they “find a commercial establishment (restaurant, hotel, mall, etc.) with toilet and use that”; 15% of respondents indicated that they “find a petrol pump with toilet and use that”; 3% find “a free public toilet and use that”; 15% seek clean “paid public toilet” facility . However, among those surveyed 15% “wait till we get home” if they are not able to find a facility that meets their requirements; 6% of the respondents admitted that if suitable facility is not available they “end up doing it in the open” while 3% stated that they use “other option than the ones listed above”. To sum up, only 18% of urban Indians surveyed stated that they or their family members use public toilets and 68% prefer visiting a commercial establishment (restaurant, hotel, petrol pump, etc.) and use the facility there.
Hardly 10% of those surveyed indicated that the public toilets they used were well maintained
Given that hardly 1 in 5 urban Indians surveyed revealed that they use public toilets when outside their homes, the survey sought to know their experience. “When you visited a public toilet maintained by the local administration in your city/ district in the last 3 years, how did you find the maintenance of it?” This crucial question received over 12,000 responses with hardly 10% of those surveyed indicating that the public toilets are well maintained. Data shows that while only 3% described their experience of using public toilets as “excellent/ nicely maintained) and 7% chose to describe it as “good/ well maintained”, the remaining were clearly not satisfied. According to 37% of the respondents the public toilets were “average/ functional”; 25% described them as “below average/ barely functional”; 16% found public toilets in a “terrible” state and 12% found the public toilets “so bad, went but came out without using”.
In summary, the survey finds that 42% of urban Indians confirm improvement in availability of functional public toilets in their district/ city in the last 3 years. While this is the positive, the negative is that 68% surveyed said that they would rather visit a commercial establishment and use the toilet there instead of visiting a public toilet. When the survey delved into the reason for such a preference, it found that only 10% surveyed rated public toilets in their city/district as well maintained while majority 53% confirmed that they are in poor or unusable state. 37% of those surveyed said they are just in functional state but not well maintained. These findings should serve as an eye opener for the Swachh Bharat Mission Urban as well as all the urban local bodies who maintain these public toilets. The need of the hour is to prioritise maintenance of existing public toilets over building newer public toilets.
LocalCircles will escalate the findings of this survey with key stakeholders in the Central and State Governments such that public feedback can help drive much needed actions on the ground.
The survey received over 39,000 responses from citizens located in 341 districts of India. 69% respondents were men while 31% respondents were women. 47% respondents were from tier 1, 31% from tier 2 and 22% respondents were from tier 3 and 4 districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.