World Toilet Day: Delhi Public Urinals

Delhi urinational point

A man waits for his turn to urinate at a public Pesab Ghar in Chawri Bazaar, Delhi.

Today is the World Toilet Day and, I am not making this up but what a coincidence, I need to go to toilet immediately.

[After 5 minutes.]

But it’s easy in Delhi, compared to Kathmandu, to attend nature’s call. Public conveniences, particularly for urination, are everywhere in the city (again, compared to Kathmandu from where I come). In Kathmandu that’s a major problem. More so in the core city area and main marketplaces. I have faced it and I have heard from others the stories of how they sneaked into Tri-Chandra Campus or RR Campus to piddle.

I was wandering around in Chawri Bazaar, the Delhi-6 market what appeared to me as selling everything that one can imagine. It was busy, crowded, noisy, and fully animated. The sight of people (that includes only men in this case) urinating at the designated public pissoirs was very interesting. The fact that the urinal points were at the unlikeliest or unexpected places didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised. As I walked on the busy road making sure the rickshaw didn’t hit me I strongly wanted to urinate. It was almost one of those moment when you feel like doing it right here, right now. But the funny thing is when I actually saw those places, I forget the pressure and, instead of standing on the queue, I was taking photos. The scene of people peeing publicly in such a buy market was that captivating! Then, all of a sudden, I realize this was THE place I was really looking for.

Last month, I was shopping in Lajpatnagar’s Central Market. I wasn’t feeling very well and I had drunk a lot of water before going to the market. Naturally, nature’s call started ringing. I was so much relieved just to see a convenience right at the heart of the bazaar. A few months ago, while roaming in Chandni Chowk, I faced the similar situation. I walked for a few minutes looking for toilet. I found one, in front of Jama Masjid. There’s one near Eros Cinema, in Jangpura Extension, which is not in use whenever I pass by it. So what I am trying to say is it’s not very difficult to attend nature’s call in Delhi. And the best is it’s free in many of the places.

But wait. It’s not enough for sure. Men urinating at public places with complete disregard to other people (this includes women) is a common sight in Delhi. (Kathmandu is no better.) It must be even more difficult for women, first, due to lack of toilets and second the sight.

I wanted to buy something in Chawri Bazaar the other day and the seller wanted to do something else. I was astonished when he peed right in front of another shop. He did that so quickly and ‘efficiently’ in such a busy place that my jaw dropped. He just sat and started scratching his head and looked around as if he was trying to bring down some lice from his head.

There are talks about making new toilets in the city. It has been reported in today’s newspapers that the city will have more toilets by the time it organizes commonwealth games in 2010. Most of the toilets (probably all) are constructed and maintained by Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and some prominent Toilet personalities are pushing for the privatization of toilets. “Attracting private players to Delhi’s potential “public convenience market” may be the solution to its oozing sanitation woes, says Jack Sim — on a mission to raise international toilet standards,” writes Hindustan Times.

Jack Sim is the man who established World Toilet Organization on 19 November 2001. That explains how the World Toilet Day found it’s place on calender.

In the run-up to the Commonwealth Games, HT writes, Sim said that salvation lay in privatization. “Toilets have to catch up with the growing standards of living in India, hence the need to privatise them — fast,” he said. He said good service and innovation needed to be rewarded. “Instead of letting just civic agencies have a monopoly, the forces of demand and supply need to be ushered in,” Sim added.

There are 1,950 toilet complexes in the city run by Municipal Corporation of Delhi. 1000 new toilets to be constructed throughout Delhi: 750 for men and 250 for women.

I don’t know when Kathmandu will wake up to find conveniences in the city that makes the life of citizens a bit easier.

From WSJ Archives:

1.  (It’s all about queue)

2.  (Go to the last paragraph!)

Here are photos from Chawri Bazaar, Old Delhi, and Jangpura Extension area.

9 thoughts on “World Toilet Day: Delhi Public Urinals

  1. Jaya Wagle

    LOL, can’t believe you took pictures of men relieving themselves. That would be grounds for being a pervert in the US, no offense.

    But you are right, it is hard to find good public restrooms in India, with the exception of Bombay. They have Sulabh Shochalay which are run by BMC (Bombay Municipal Corporation) and are very clean by Indian standards with separate Men and Women sections and an attendant who regularly cleans. You of course have to pay a slight amount of money. If I remember correctly, 10 years ago it was about a rupee. Not bad for a clean toilet.


    1. Dinesh

      We live in worlds that are culturally and politically so vastly different… it’s perfectly okay to take such pictures and publish in newspapers, not only on web sites, here in South Asia. In fact, today’s Hindustan Times carries a photo almost similar to the one seen at the top: not of the waiting guy but of other other!

      I think only a few people, like the shopkeeper I mentioned in the entry, create public nuisance deliberately even when toilets are around. Vast majority of those who urinate on the street side do so because there are not enough proper places. It’s all comes to money apart from mentality. You have to invest money and making lavatories doesn’t become a priority to the third world countries. One doesn’t have to go to villages but juts outside Delhi to see how people openly excrete. Apart from lack of money to make toilets, it’s also because lack of awareness about health and sanitation.

      Btw, seems like urinating openly has some positive aspects too in these times when the world is so intensely debating climate change and environmental degradation. I read in a newspaper recently that Britons have chosen to do it in public places to save water that is otherwise used to flush!


    2. radha

      Came over from Jaya’s blog. First, I should congratulate you on your courage – to use the public lavatory.

      There are many Sulabh paid toilets set up in Hyderabad. You do see some paying for the use of them, but more number dirtying the place a few feet away. I wonder if you could encourage people to use the facilities by paying them to use it. Just a thought. Get people to donate money so that it can be given to those who use these toilets. This will expose more people to cleaner facilities and who knows over a period of time, they will probably even clean up their neighbourhood.


      1. Dinesh Wagle Post author

        Thank you radha 🙂 And also THANKS to Jaya for being kind.

        India is a country of so much contrast and that can be seen in every sector…including the usage of toilet. There are many who are willing to pay for better service while some would prefer open “natural” way to save a few paisa. But overall I feel India is progressing and moving forward which is great.


  2. Jaya Wagle

    You are welcome Dinesh. 🙂 I couldn’t help plugging your blog on World Toilet Day. The opportunity to use the play on words was priceless. Do check it out, I got some interesting responses. 🙂


    1. Chamatkaribaba

      Nice to read ur blog after a long time. Hope u are doing great and received my sms. I can understand people in village site urinating and shitting on open field hiding themselves on some small bushes. But, in city like Hyderabad, these days, I started finding amazing when people urinate on the roadside of busy mainroad without any shame n a small stream flows on the pavement. How people can do that is beyond my understanding but one thing is sure that there are not many clean toilets in the city.


  3. Rahul Deshpnade

    Thank you Dinesh..
    Your case really helped me with lot of insightes.
    I’m am an architect and Industrial designer. I’m working on a project called ‘urinals for Indian public spaces.’ I hope things will change. I’ve to take a jump now.



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