Women and children can walk in to any restaurant’s washroom in Bengaluru; following Delhi’s lead, Mayor, BBMP hotels’ association make historic decision
Bengaluru’s restaurant owners have voluntarily decided to follow in the footsteps of their counterparts in south Delhi by opening their toilets to women and children who need to go.
Chandrashekar Hebbar, president of the BBMP hotels’ association, said: “Since we’ve always had toilets available, and we respect women and value their dignity, we decided to follow Delhi’s model and allow anyone in need to use our facility. We are instructing all hotels in the city to do so from Wednesday onwards.”
According to Hebbar, the move would not only be in line with the Union government’s ‘Clean India’ initiative, it is also in sync with the moto of service industry.
Meanwhile, Bengaluru Mayor G Padmavathi said she had been longing to introduce this rule for a long time and with south Delhi municipality passing the order, she wants to replicate it in Bengaluru too. “As a woman, I know how difficult it is to go around the city. The Delhi order is definitely an eye-opener and I shall get the order passed in the BBMP council meeting that is slated for Wednesday,” she said.
Considering the acute scarcity of clean, usable public toilets, the move will be a big relief for women and children of the city.
A Bengaluru-based hotel manager said: “We have never asked someone who has come to use our toilet whether they are going to consume food or not. However, people should know to use it well.”
Hebbar agrees: “This is important. We need to tell people to flush properly and keep it clean for the next person. They should treat any toilet like the toilet in their house.”
Water and sanitation specialist Ramasamy Krishnan said that while the state was battling open defecation, “this move will be a milestone”.
Another hotel manager in the city, Shrikant, said that as of now, only the outer bathrooms at their hotel were open for public use. “If the government passes a law that makes it compulsory for us to allow women and children to use any of our washrooms, we’ll be happy to comply.”
Residents of Bengaluru have also welcomed the change. Nidhi Prabhu, an IT professional, said: “I often need to use the bathroom while travelling. While cafes have always been there, not everyone is happy to let you in just to use the loo. But I feel many in Bengaluru don’t give a second look if we need to use the bathroom. It is natural. ”
Ria Mehrotra, who works in a city-based NGO, gave an example of how hard it was for a mother to be on the move in a city that doesn’t have safe and usable public toilets.
“My sister and her children [who are aged 9, 7, and 4] have a tough time sometimes while on the move. If there aren’t any restaurants available nearby, she cuts down on their water intake just so they won’t have to go to the loo.”
She added: “I have faced issues a lot of times. I once had to walk into somebody’s office just to use their bathroom. Thankfully, they didn’t question me on it.”
Riyaaz Amlani, president of the Restaurants Association of India, said: “We stand for the dignity of women. We will allow all women and children to use our facilities.”
In a city such as Bengaluru, a move such as this may not be quite as necessary as most standalone restaurants allow non-customers to use their washrooms.
Subhankar Dhar, who runs a restaurant called Espalande Potstickers, says they’ve rarely refused such requests. “If it becomes a rule, we will, but of course, have to oblige. But one must understand that it adds to the overhead cost of a restaurant because we would need to hire additional staff to keep the washrooms clean. So from a business perspective, it makes little sense. But like I said, if we have to do it, we will.”
Aishwarya Kannan, who handles social media and public relations for blueFROG, agrees with Dhar. “We have always been open-minded about letting people in to use our restrooms regardless of the customers making a bill with us or not. And we haven’t stopped anyone from doing so, men or women. We also regularly clean and maintain our toilet facilities. Hence, putting up a signage in front of our establishment wouldn’t be a problem for us,” she adds.
Managing Committee member or National Restaurants Association of India, Ashish Kothare, says that while it’s a great idea in principle, but “in practicality it might not be a great move”. He also went on to add that in Bengaluru, most pubs and restaurants allow people to use their restrooms anyway. He also said that if this were to become a rule in the city, he won’t oppose it but will raise his concerns to the appropriate authorities.
How India should learn from other countries
Public toilet is, in fact, one of India’s biggest sore points, and nobody knows this better than a traveller. For someone who has travelled the world, the deficiency in this area becomes all the more evident. For example, a Bengaluru couple that travelled across 19 countries for a year — without staying in hotels most of the times — said they never had to worry about going to the loo because of how easy this arrangement was in most countries they visited.
Even countries like Vietnam were better than India in this regard. Narrating their experiences, Bengalurean Sunil Kumar V Kaushil said: “We have never had to ‘go’ in the open. We could always found toilets in hotels or restaurants, or anywhere, for that matter. While most West Asian restaurants allow you to use their toilets, European restaurants would want you to buy something inexpensive as a token of gratitude.”
This couple has used toilets in supermarkets. You do not have to buy anything there and anyone can use the toilet. Sunil says: “Both of us were comfortable using toilets in public places and no one has an issue if you talk to them politely.”
After travelling through 19 countries on a bicycle, the couple said public toilets in other countries were, hands down, much better than India’s. “We hesitate to go to a toilet here because of its condition,” said Sunil.
The trailblazing South Delhi order
The South Delhi Municipality issued an order for all hotels or restaurants to allow any women and children to use washroom for free. Since the order came out, many restaurants in south Delhi have now displayed a notice outside their establishments saying their toilets are available for free use by women and children.
(The article was originally published in Bangalore Mirror)