Hon’ble Sh. Narendra Modi Ji
Prime Minister of India
7, Race Course road, New Delhi-01
December 15, 2014
Sub: Poor disabled SC couple fined by MCD for constructing toilet in their slum-dwelling
We have come across a shocking incident pertaining to our capital city wherein the dream of “Swachch Bharat” is being mercilessly crushed at the hands of the Government itself. While toilets are sought to be given primacy over temples in the national agenda, a poor disabled couple who dares to construct a toilet in their slum-dwelling at their own expense are compelled not only to pay financial penalty but even to demolish the same.
Mr. Ram Khilari (M: 8750257924), a disabled with one eye, lives with his wife, Mrs. Shanti, crippled with both hands and a 15 year-old daughter at House no. 253, Ram Prasad Bismil Camp, Shashi Garden, Delhi-91. The family belongs to a scheduled caste. The locality is a slum-settlement and although there is a community toilet complex in the locality, the same has been closed long time ago. Consequently, the residents are compelled to either ease themselves in the open or walk to a distant toilet facility. In view of the resultant inconvenience to the family including two disabled persons and the safety and dignity of the female-members, the disabled woman Mrs. Shanti herself took the initiative and raised a loan of Rs. 20,000 at an interest-rate of 24% p.a. from a private firm to construct a toilet in her house.
However, the same did not find favor with the MCD. In the garb of the provisions of DMC Act, 1957, Mr. Ram Khilari was fined for Rs.200 by Sh. V.K. Mittal, Special Metropolitan/Municipal Magistrate on November 18, 2014, which is ironically just about a month after the launching of ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ on October 2, 2014. Further, he has been asked to demolish the toilet or face further action. Already reeling under the burden of loan raised for construction of the toilet, the family is now doubly jeopardized.
The present case is only illustrative. It highlights the plight of a population of over 35 lacs living in over a thousand slums across Delhi, who have no access to clean and safe toilet facility. The situation is very alarming. While the community toilets are either non-existent or defunct, the unpragmatic legal norms, besides financial incapacity, come in the people’s way of making their own arrangements. Consequently, people are forced to defecate in the open. In Ram Khilari’s locality itself, several other house-holds have been fined for constructing their own toilet and put to notice to demolish the same.
A legalistic approach to this issue without keeping the ground-realities in mind would lead us nowhere in tackling the serious issue of sanitation. It is high time to dump the archaic laws if they come in way of finding a solution and develop a governmental approach of assisting rather than discouraging the poor people in this realm. If at all some deficiencies are found in the toilets so constructed, the government may assist them in improving the toilets rather than to levy penalties and require them to demolish the same.
In this light, you are earnestly requested to take appropriate steps to ensure that Ram Khilari’s family and such other families are neither punished nor required to demolish their toilet facilities and instead such families should be encouraged to construct appropriate toilet facilities at their own residences. The fine already charged should also be refunded to them.
Ashok Agarwal, Advocate
Advisor, Social Jurist