CHENNAI: In a crowded interior area in Seven Wells, a lone Electricity Box has been serving as the public toilet and bath area for people who stay by the street corner. In this locality of Amman Koil Street, which has rows of shops in every discernible corner, the people settled along the road sides have been openly urinating, defecating and bathing here. These men and women — mostly labourers, have continued this practice for years, claiming that there is no proper toilet facility nearby. “We have to go 2 km if we want to use a toilet. If the corporation is ready to build us public toilets in the area, we are ready to use it,” says labourer Rajeshwari. Her elderly mother and seven-year-old son too are seen to be using road corners for washing and bathing.
Another shopkeeper echoes that this dangerous practice, which has resulted in many repair men being electrocuted before, is also done in the neighboring areas like Venkatesan Street. These streets which come under Ward 56, and is headed by D Subash Chandrabose, a DMK councilor, which, some say, has become a hurdle. “He listens to our qualms patiently, but we can feel there is also the issue of some of his suggestions not being heard well,” says Mani, a ration store vendor.
Another shopkeeper claims that even when there was a public toilet nearby, which was later demolished to give way for the metro, people continued using the EB box to answer nature’s call. “It’s quite obscene, really,” says Murali Krishna, a rice distributor whose store is right at the turning of the street from where the stench rises.
It is unknown if the people settled on these streets have homes, but when inquired they claimed to have none. “We live by the streets, we have no home,” says Rose, a domestic help. The street sits in a dingy mess without streetlights; alcohol reeks from its inhabitants, and a public toilet is nowhere in sight.