According to Kochi Corporation officials, around 250 families have no toilet facilities in their homes.

Mattancherry native Suhara inside her house with no toilet facilityMattancherry native Suhara inside her house with no toilet facility
news Housing Wednesday, October 13, 2021 - 09:13

For 35-year-old Shafeedha, who lives in Mattancherry in Kochi, the nights are difficult. She has to drink less water because going to the toilet in the middle of the night puts her in jeopardy. It would mean going out of her house, crossing the street to access the public toilet. For Shafeeda and seven others in her home, including six children and her sister, drinking less water during the night has been the norm for the past two years since they started renting the two-room house, which lacks a toilet facility, near the Koonan Kurishu Church in Mattancherry.

But Shafeedha’s isn’t the only family in Kerala whose residence doesn’t have a toilet. According to Kochi Corporation officials, around 250 families – as per official stats alone – in the local body's limits, have no toilet facilities in their homes and have approached the local body for aid to build toilets.

TNM spoke to a few families in Kochi's Mattancherry who live in houses without toilets. From concerns about safety, especially for women, to the hardship of having to depend on public toilets even at nights, the issues raised by families are many.

"It is really difficult to go out of the house with children if they want to use toilets especially during the night. We always feel a sense of insecurity. But what do we do," Shafeedha laments.

Shafeedha's house

For the small two-room house consisting of a bedroom and kitchen, Shafeedha pays Rs 2,000 per month as rent. "At the time of renting the house, we knew that it did not have a toilet. But we could only afford this house, so we decided to live here," she says, “Though none of the other families near my house use this public toilet, it is still open to the public.”

"At nights, when we have to use the toilets, we are nervous to approach the area," says Shafeeedha.

Public toilet Shafeedha and family access

Sakeeruneesa, another resident in the area, said that until a few years ago, there had been scores of houses in the region without a toilet and all of them depended on public toilets. "The main reason for the lack of toilet facility was the unavailability of land. All the houses here are one or two room houses. Over the years, local bodies and other religious organisations have helped us build toilets but since there is not a surplus inch of land, in most of our houses, septic tanks are built on the floor of the kitchen or bedroom," says Sakeeruneesa.

Shafeedha has a similar problem. "There is no land to construct the toilet or the septic tanks so the house owner cannot build one," she says. Shafeedha adds that on many occasions, her family has faced social exclusion for not having a toilet in their home. "Most of our relatives are apprehensive to come over and stay in our place because there is no toilet. There is no point in blaming them," she sighs.

A little away from Shaheeda's house lives 65-year-old Suhara. For the past fifty years, Suhara and her 40-year-old sister Raihanath, who is blind, has been living in a dingy, dilapidated two-room house with no toilet. "Since my sister is blind, I have to guide her out to the public toilet. At night, it is even tough for me to go out, so how can I guide her? At night, we use bedpans," says Suhara.

Suhara's house

Surviving on the welfare pension that they receive from the state government, Suhara and her sister Raihanath cannot afford to stay anywhere else. "We don't have a job, and it won't ever be possible for us alone to construct a toilet. We don't have money for that. Even this house can come down any moment, that is the condition. Though I have approached local body members multiple times, it has been of no use," says Suhara.

Public toilet used by the family

Suhara's neighbour Yunis also has no toilet inside her house. The families state that in the past aid was sanctioned by the local body to construct toilets. However, the lack of land for construction meant that the funds were never put to use and the toilet never materialised.

Recently, the ruling CPI(M) members of the Kochi Corporation, proposed to give the local body 'open defecation free' tag. However, this was opposed by the Congress-led opposition front in the council. Speaking to TNM, opposition leader of the council, Antony Kureethra pointed out that many families still have no toilet in their homes. "In 2020 alone, the Corporation received 500 applications for aid to construct toilets. And we have only been able to give sanction for 250 families. Applications of the remaining 250 families are pending. In such an instance, what is the point of declaring the Corporation 'open defecation free'?" asks Antony Kureethra.


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