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The naked truth

If the sight of open defecation is a shrinking sight, it is all the more flinching to view dirty toilets sans water and electricity cut out for slum dwellers of Mumbai. A short film, “don’t leave me now”, on the Slum Sanitation in Mumbai, shot by filmmaker Girish Menon was screened at Department Of Communication and Journalism (University of Mumbai) in association with ‘Pratha’, an NGO.

The film depicts the plight of slum dwellers. In spite of toilet existing in their vicinity, they are unable to use it due to lack of even the basic facilities of electricity and water. Improper, unusable sanitation facilities in these shanty towns have exposed slum dwellers to diseases like malaria, diarrhoea and dengue.

With more than half the population of Mumbai’s residents living in slums, it’s an irony that sanitation in these dark alleys has been ignored for long. The harrowing picture of the slum toilets inhabited by miscreants and stray dogs and the helpless slum dwellers suffering with unclean surroundings draws a pathetic picture. On an encouraging note, the film shows the initiatives taken by Anand Jagtap (Officer on Special Duty, SSP, MSDP, MCGM) along with Anand Bhatia (Social Entrepreneur, Pratha), and R.A. Sattar (the President of the federation of Community Based Organisations) in improving the sanitation conditions in some of the slums, including Shivaji Nagar, Borivli and Govandi.

Based on a survey in 2001, Anand Jagtap and his team set out to reduce the gap between the sanitation facilities enjoyed by urban rich and the urban poor. There were 9956 toilet blocks in slums and 20% were well maintained. SSP team set about educating the slum dwellers on the need for maintaining cleanliness and sanitation. Toilets are built by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai on the request of the slum and maintained by the community based organisation, which consists of a group of enterprising slum residents. The solution to sanitation was in the hands of these few residents who needed help to firstly set up toilets and then maintain them profitably.

NGOs like Pratha stepped in to help do the documentation work for slum toilet request. Every such toilet is a reinforcement of cement concrete with electricity and water supply. These toilets were constructed with an extended floor which is either inhabited by the caretaker of the toilet or used for commercial purposes like educating children, running computer classes, or initiating slum women in self supporting occupations.

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