CHENNAI: Had the recently-renovated public toilet opposite the hut of S Mahalakshmi, who was crushed to death by a Metro Water jet-rodding truck on Tuesday, been kept open, the little girl would have perhaps not met with the tragic end.
The newly-laid tiles on its walls stand testimony to the fact that the toilet was renovated recently. However, the toilet was filled with filth since it had been lying unused. “Men in our locality scale its walls and relieve themselves there. But the toilet was never cleaned and kept open for public use,” said Hemalatha, a resident of Vasuki Nagar.
The women folk claimed that they had to walk for nearly 500 metres to reach another public toilet at Kannikapuram to attend nature’s call. “Men somehow manage by relieving themselves in isolated places. But women have to walk all the way to the nearest public toilet,” said Mahalakshmi’s aunt Aisha, adding that the girl could have been saved had the toilet been kept open.
“The girl’s mother Jamuna had no other option but to make the child defecate on the roadside. We have repeatedly been asking the councillors to open the toilet for people like us who do not have toilets in our houses. But our pleas have fallen only on deaf ears,” said Hemalatha. The locals said that a sizable number of houses in the area did not have toilets. “If this toilet cannot be used at all, then they should at least demolish it and widen the road. This will allow free movement of vehicles on the street,” said Saraswathi, a local resident.
When queried, T Magizhanban, the sixth ward committee chairman, said, “Public toilets should not be kept locked. There is no provision that permits the action. We can probably bring in an emergency motion to raise the issue of locked toilets, in the upcoming council meet.”
K Sivakumar, Councillor of Ward 72, said “It is an unfortunate incident. But the toilet remained locked for nearly five years as there is no water supply to it. Only six months ago, it was renovated with the Councillor’s funds.”