What scares public away from e-toilets?
The ‘e-toilet’ was inaugurated in the Kozhikode Corporation as a pilot project on December 27, 2010 with much fanfare. Hyped as the first of its kind to be launched in the entire country, the ‘e-toilet project’, but, has remained a damp squib ever since its launch. One of the major reasons attributed to the failure of the project is the lukewarm approach of the public, especially women users. Women are reluctant to use the toilet, as they are not comfortable with the technology. There were glitches in the marketing end as well. “Neither the etoilets were marketed properly, nor the public were instructed on how to use them,” explained P Rahim, Regional Manager, Erams Solution, the company which introduced e-toilets. Fifteen units of e- toilets have been installed at various parts of the city. One unit each has been placed in Beypore, Cheruvannur, Beach premises, near the Head Post Office, Pavangad, Karaparamba, Medical College Police Station, Oyitty Road and Lorry Stand. Devagiri College premises, Muthalakulam and Stadium have two units each. A major complaint raised by a user was that she happened to get stuck in one of the toilets as the doors were jammed. “First of all, there was no light when I got inside the toilet and when I tried to get out, I was stuck for a while.” said Shini, who tried using the e-toilet at Karaparamba. Anjali, another user, said, “The toilets are un-kept and resemble the ordinary pay-anduse toilets. The only difference is that these are electronic.” The two units of e-toilet placed inside the Sarovaram Biopark encountered a sad fate as most of the electronic parts were stolen, including the exhaust fans and wiring. Sreekanth, the contractor of the pedaling boats inside the park, says, “We often see visitors complaining about the e-toilet. They think we are in charge of the e- toilet too, along with the boat rides. When they find the toilet not working, they come over to have a tiff with us.” Kudumbashree Project Director Ramzee Ismail points out, “The major reason for the failure of the e-toilet project is that most people do not know how to use it.” P Rahim goes on to explain, “It is just a matter of putting a coin and using the toilet. Somehow, people were quite apprehensive about it, especially about the sliding doors. However, we are planning to introduce a modified unit with manual doors and an emergency exit towards the back end. We will be making the new units user-friendly,” He also points out that though the corporation authorities had cooperated well when it came to funding for installing the units, they did not provide any funds for the maintenance of the units. Nearly `5 lakh was spent on each unit. Though the e-toilets remained neglected for nearly a year, there has been a marginal increase in the number of people using it in the past six months. In an effort to revive the project, the ‘Delight e-shops’, newly launched by the Corporation authorities along with Kudumbashree, are being set up near the e-toilets. “The e-shops will be set up within the visible distance of the e-toilets so that the shopkeeper can have an eye on the toilet. Moreover, people coming to the shop can also use the toilets,” said Rahim. Currently, at least 50-100 people are using the e-toilets set up within the Kozhikode Corporation limits. Anil B, Zonal Coordinator of Erams, stated, “as per the records, e-toilets are used by a minimum of around 50 people every day. The highest number of users was recorded from the e-toilets at Oyitty Road, Lorry Stand and Stadium.” He goes on to say that at least 5-6 people use one unit in a day and on some days, e-toilets would not function due to the lack of water supply. “We collect the water in tanks and then pump it into the e -toilets. Other than these issues some of the toilets are infested by rats. They feast on the wiring, which leads to failure of the unit,” says Anil. “ One of the major issues we have raised against the e-toilets is the lack of water supply. We had received complaints regarding this,” said K S Jayasree, General Secretary, Streechetana. She also added that people will need time before they get used to the technology and start using it. Mayor A K Premajam pointed out, “The main reason for the failure of the e-toilet is that public do not know how to operate it.”
Not Many Takers for e-toilets
* At least 50-100 people use the e-toilets a day
* Around 5-6 people use one unit a day
* The highest number of users was recorded from the e-toilets at Oyitty Road, Lorry Stand and Stadium