Living in an unsafe environment amidst drunkards and drug addicts, and having to answer nature's call after sunset comes with its own set of risks.
In a Delhi slum known as Israil Camp, 12-year-old Priya's (name changed) small 6X10 sq ft home, which houses six members, does not have a toilet. "There are no community toilets nearby, and, so we do not go there," she said.
Priya revealed that there is always a fear of being attacked by the drug addicts or drunkards who lurk around. Besides, she said, the residents also have to be wary of snakes and insects.
A total of 423 children from four slum areas of Delhi-Inder Camp, Israil Camp, Kalyan Vihar and Sanjay Camp - participated in the survey, conducted by the Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation (KSCF).
Of them, 295 children reported having access to toilets, private or community. Out of the 345 who don't have a toilet at home, 203 children (58.8 per cent) revealed they use community toilets ('pucca' toilets), 14 children (4.06 per cent) use mobile toilets, and the remaining 128 children (37.1 per cent) defecate in the open.
The survey also revealed that almost 71 per cent of those who use public toilets said the community toilets were inaccessible round-the-clock.
Anita, a 14-year-old from Sanjay Camp, said: "I try to use the toilet when the place is crowded to avoid any untoward incidents."
The study also looked into the ratio of users to the number of community toilets. It found that in all the four slums, the number of toilets was inadequate. On average, the community toilets were located around 200-300 metres away from the residential areas. The number of users per community toilet in these four slums ranged from 64 to 316 per toilet, depending on the population of slums and the number of toilets.
Israil camp has only 19 community toilets for a population of about 6,000, thus making the number of user per toilet as high as 316.
The officials of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), the body responsible for the management of urban slums in Delhi, claim steps are being taken to provide toilet facilities to as many people as possible. DUSIB member Bipin Rai said as the slums are unplanned, there is no scope of constructing toilets in most of the houses.
"There was a need of 27,000 community toilets in the slums of Delhi of which the DUSIB has constructed 22,000, while the Municipal Corporation of Delhi has constructed 3,000. The remaining toilets will be constructed within a year," he said.
Rai stated that once they received information on the issues related to safety and security, they wrote to the Delhi Police for increasing patrolling in such areas. Talking about instilling the practice of using toilets among slum dwellers, he said usage fees for toilets had been waived off a year ago since it was expensive for the slum-dwellers, who on an average have six to eight members in their families.
He informed that while it costs the government Rs 50 crore, usage fees were revoked to ensure that people use toilets.
Along with compiling the report, the KSCF had also given some recommendations that might help solve the problems.
"[The] government must construct private toilets with proper sewage systems, especially in slum areas under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) scheme. The community toilets should be built at the optimal population per toilet seat ratio and should have all facilities including water, sanitation, cleanliness and security," said Rakesh Senger, the programme director of the survey report.
"Toilets catering to the special needs of children must also be constructed under the SBM. Security issues related to public toilets need to be addressed on an urgent basis. With functional locks and latches installed in all toilets, attendants should be deployed at the gates of the shared toilets and uninterrupted electricity supply should be provided in every toilet," he added.
The recommendations also included mandatory police patrolling every night to eliminate the presence of drug and alcohol addicts in and around these toilets, since they pose a significant threat to the safety of children.
( With inputs from IANS )