Recently a group of girls was travelling by a private bus from Bengaluru to Mangaluru with friends. They had boarded the bus around 9 p.m. for their overnight journey. But they had a harrowing experience courtesy lack of sanitation facilities on the Indian highways.
“The driver stopped in the middle of nowhere and told us that whoever wanted to relieve themselves could do so there. We were forced to go behind some bushes, as we did not have any other option and also didn’t know if the bus would stop again. It was dark, scary and humiliating. Each of us stood guard for the other,” she recalls.
So if you want to travel by a bus or car for a long distance, holding your bladder is pretty much a compulsion. But it is only due to lack of infrastructure. A lot of toll tax is paid while one travels on highways from city to city. However if all of it is put into beautifying the roads, it is hardly justified. Proper toilets should be built at regular distances and maintained too. So many years of boasting about progress, people have to still rely on dhabas and restaurants for using the loo. That too at the mercy of the bus service, which causes a lot of trouble especially for women, children and older people.
Bengaluru-based activist Vasudeva Sharma has launched an online petition on Change.org with a ‘Safe and clean highway toilets for women’ call to Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways. His cause is genuine and has already gathered over 20,000 signatures so far.
“Many Indians travel by bus because of non-availability of train tickets or the prohibitive cost of flight tickets. But for women, senior citizens and people with disabilities, travelling by bus in India has always been a nightmare because of the toilet problem. The government needs to fix this huge problem with the Indian transport system. What is the point of futuristic highways and smart cities if women can’t use these highways?” he says in the petition.
Agreed that the maintenance of highways differs from state to state, however after the KUTEERA scheme, some action should have been taken by now. But the complaints have been to no avail.
“Construction is not the big thing, maintenance is. Even local bodies are not showing interest. Such facilities exist, but are not enough for the number of highway users, which has doubled in the last five years,” said a Tourism Department official.
This is a serious problem, and instead of trying to gloat with the ideas of smart cities and metros in smaller cities, basic amenities should be made available on highways which are a large part of the country’s economic infrastructure.
Information source: thehindu
Title image: wikimedia