Not one disabled-friendly public toilet in 19 states, reveals RTI
Access to disabled-friendly toilets is one of the goals of the ambitious Swachh Bharat Mission programme launched by the Centre over five years ago. Just how far India is from getting there is clear from an RTI filed by disability rights advocate Akeel Usmani. The RTI reveals that of the 35 states and union territories in India, 19 do not have even one accessible community or public toilet. That’s our focus on #StoryOfTheWeek.
Some of India’s richest states rank among 19 states and union territories that are yet to build a single disabled-friendly public or community toilet. This is the state of affairs over five years after the Centre launched the ambitious Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and over three years after the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act came into force.
India’s richest states lack disabled-friendly toilets
Among the 19 are states like Punjab, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu. Of the rest, Delhi ranks number one but with a meagre 1616 public and community toilets each. Chhattisgarh ranks second with 1035 community toilets and a disgraceful 100 public toilets.
This information has come to light after an RTI was filed by disability rights advocate Akeel Ahmad Usmani. In March 2019, Akeel filed an RTI with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs asking how many public toilets had been built by the government of India and whether they were accessible as mandated under the RPWD Act.
Over three years have passed since the RPWD Act was passed but the government has done little by way of implementation. We finally have a law that is rights-based but little has changed on the ground. The RTI is evidence of that poor implementation. There are many court judgements that have clearly stated that the right to an accessible public toilet is a fundamental right. So is the right to life with dignity. Disabled people have the same rights as non-disabled people and accessible toilets must be built on a priority basis. – Akeel Ahmad Usmani, Disability rights advocate
The RTI findings reveal the extent of apathy towards the needs of the disabled community. Even a state like Kerala, which is known for its inclusion initiatives, has just one disabled-friendly community toilet and 10 accessible public toilets.
Disabled-friendly toilets key target of accessible India campaign
The findings, says well-known disability rights leader Arman Ali, reveal the shortcomings in the government approach towards disability issues.
“This shows the limited capacity in terms of understanding the rights of people with disabilities by the government”, says Arman, who is the Executive Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP). “If you put everything on the Department of Disability Affairs, this is going to be the result”. The lack of intent, he says, is amply clear. “The approach towards the disabled community is one of welfare and charity. It is completely missing from the agenda of development and whatever is being done is in silos”.
Given this state of affairs, the new deadline of March 2020 set by the Centre to achieve the targets of the Accessible India Campaign seem very ambitious.