If you thought that air conditioners in public loos were an unnecessary luxury in a city that begs for hygienic public toilets, the brains behind the city's first such facility, located in Kandivli (East), have gone even further, adding an LCD television and a sofa to the bargain.
The swanky new toilet, which was commissioned by MNS MLA Pravin Darekar, was inaugurated by his party chief Raj Thackeray on Saturday. Social workers have remarked on the absurdity of a public toilet with a sofa set costing over Rs 2.5 lakh, a 42-inch LCD TV, and air conditioners that cost over Rs 2 lakh.
These are not the only luxuries - there is the more valuable commodity of space that this toilet seems to offer, albeit afforded by the taxpayers' money. Spreading over a 3,000 sq ft area, the toilet has separate cubicles for men and women, aswell as provisions for bathing. There is a changing room aswell.
The TV and sofa can be found in what the makers are calling the 'waiting room'. "The construction took nearly four months, but all the formalities and procedures took nearly one-and-a-half years," said Darekar, who commissioned the toilet from his MLA's funds.
Darekar claims that the sofa set and TV have been donated by people who wanted to be part of the cause. Two cleaners have been appointed to keep the facility clean.
Two security guards will be manning the entrance round the clock. "There are times when women want to use the toilet but are afraid to do so because there is no security. We have appointed two security persons who will guard the toilets, so women feel they are safe," added Darekar, stating that he would be visiting the toilet regularly to make sure it is well-maintained.
Darekar says he wants the expensive facility to be more than just a public toilet. "We have also kept in mind students or others who come to the city for a day and can't afford a hotel room where they can freshen up. They can directly come here, get ready, and leave for their interviews or exams," said Prakash Darekar, who is a corporator from Dahisar.
The team is also planning to arrange for lockers, where the visitors can keep their luggage. The urinals can be used for free, but the toilets and bathing cubicles will be charged at Rs 5 per visit.
Social workers MiD DAY spoke to were less than enthusiastic about the facility, saying that it would have been wiser to spend the funds on more basic, clean public loos, rather than on a single, flamboyant facility.
Nitai Mehta, founder, Praja Foundation, said, "The city needs more toilets. This is a good initiative, but instead of one toilet, he should have initiated and made more toilets without facilities like television sets and sofas."
James John, volunteer of AGNI, said, "I think it's not a toilet but a director's cabin. It is a mistake of the authorities who have passed this plan. Even common sense says that toilets don't require ACs. There are people not getting their meals, and here they are making AC toilets."
I can say that it's a luxurious, dreamy touch to answering nature's call. It's a little dramatic. It's like showing off.
CA from Kandivli
I think the initiative is great and we should all welcome it. Not many toilets are available on highways and people who are travelling need it. But hygiene should be maintained.
It's an important deficit that has been filled. There are no such facilities on highways, which makes this very valuable.