No Swachh Bharat drive on road to Kashmir
At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is laying emphasis on making India defecation free, Srinagar-Jammu highway reflects a complete contrast of his vision.
The 265-km highway, the only road connecting Kashmir to the rest of world, has, over the years, turned into a route of open roadside toilets.
In absence of toilets along the highway, the stranded passengers are often seen taking a wayside to relieve themselves.
Women commuters particularly have to face a lot of inconvenience.
The female passengers, at times, have to walk several kilometres in dangerous stretches with falling rocks to attend the nature’s call.
A young female student, who was travelling from New Delhi to her home in Baramulla to enjoy her winter holidays, narrated a horrible experience she had to go through in absence of a toilet when she like many other commuters were stranded for two days on the highway last month.
“It was no less than a nightmare. I was looking for a toilet but apart from the stranded vehicles there was no sign of anything around,” she said.
After failing to find a toilet despite several hours of search, she relived herself by the side of a stranded vehicle.
The life for male passengers is no less vulnerable when it comes to attending nature’s call on the highway.
Even though, unlike females, male passengers often utilise open roadside of the highway, many prefer a proper toilet.
Imtiyaz Hussain, who frequently takes the highway to travel to Jammu for his work, also feels lack of toilets is one of the biggest inconvenience a commuter has to face along the road.
“You either have to hold on till you reach your destiny or look at a roadside hotel and hope they have a toilet,” Hussain said.
To avoid frequent toilet visits, Hussain said he takes light food and less water before hitting the road.
“That is the only way you can avoid getting embarrassed on the road,” Hussain said.
There is a lack of toilets on the highway even at a time when Government of India (GoI) under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan constructed tens of thousands of toilets across India.
Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry said the GoI has built 45,932 individual and 3069 community toilets in Jammu Kashmir under various schemes.
It said 1.17 lakh new sewer connections were also constructed.
In a reply to a query in the Rajya Sabha, the ministry said it had launched missions and schemes, Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U) and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) for improvement of sanitation facilities including safe disposal of sanitary waste in urban areas of all states and union territories including Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh.
The Ministry said in Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh, under the Swachh Bharat Mission, a total of 45,932 individual household toilets were built against the target of 60,000 and a total of 3069 community toilets, which is more than a set target of 2078, were constructed.
Meanwhile, Regional Officer Jammu Kashmir, National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), Hemraj said the authorities had placed “toilets on wheels” at regular intervals on the highway.
“There are a number of toilets that are being placed on the roadside for public convenience. Along with the construction of the road, we are taking care of toilets as well,” he said.