HERE’S HOW POLITICIANS MAKE MONEY OUT OF PUBLIC TOILETS IN BANGALORE’S KALASIPALYA AREA
Kalasipalya leaders make around Rs 20,000/toilet per month
It’s Bengaluru’s dirty little secret — Palike’s toilets are given out to cronies of local leaders. These loo caretakers not only give the politicians a vote base but also small change to keep things going
A walk around the Kalasipalya area gave us a quick lesson in the peeconomy prevalent here, a system initiated by the toilet cartels. Every time you pee in a public toilet, the operator collects Rs 2 and every time you poop, you donate Rs 5 to their kitty. If that’s giving you the runs, let’s hope it’s not when the public toilets in the area are padlocked.
As bizzare as it may sound, supporters of the local corporator, Pratibha Dhanraj and her husband Dhanraj (ex corporator) stormed public toilets last week and put padlocks on them. The objective was to wrest control of these toilets and collect toilet fees from those ‘operating’ the toilets. A toilet operator said that the toilets were locked up by the present corporator’s supporters who demanded that the money be paid to them since RV Devraj (former legislator from Chickpete) was no longer the MLA.
Public toilet operators, patronised by the local leaders, manage toilets around the Kalasipalya bus stand and market areas. They claim that the daily collection figures from toilet use fees range anywhere from Rs 600 to 1,000 (depending on size of the toilets and footfall) from each toilet in the entire ward. If we apply simple math here, Rs 600 to 1,000 collected from each of the 10 toilets in a ward will generate an income of Rs 1.8 to Rs 3 lakh per ward, which is pocketed by the toilet cartels.
Kalasipalya is no exception, say local leaders. This is the rule across all wards in the city. As of now, the BBMP, according to its portal, has at least 479 toilets in the city of which at least 46 are maintained by the BBMP, at least 156 have no contractors mentioned against them, some are listed as maintained by locals and the remaining are run by private individuals and voluntary organisations as CSR initiatives.
Says M Anbu, a differently abled man managing the public toilet on Fort B Street adjacent to the Kalasipalaya Bus stand, “I have to pay Rs 600 to Dhanraj (the corporator’s husband) every day. If I don’t give it, then they have clearly asked me to stop managing this toilet.
Earlier, another guy associated with the former MLA used to come and collect the money.”
When contacted, Devaraj admitted that Dhanraj and his supporters had taken over the ‘administration’ of all toilets and roadside stalls in and around the bus stand. But he was quick to add that everything was perfect when he was the MLA. “I used to identify local associations to handle these toilets. But now Dhanraj and his men are taking over and they are charging Rs 1,000 from everyone,” Devaraj added.
Chandrakumar, a resident of B Street and member of Fort Area Welfare Trust, a residents’ collective in the locality, says, “Some of the toilets are maintained by private voluntary organisations but the remaining are being used as a front to earn money by the local politicians to fund their supporters.”
Contract system missing
It seems the BBMP itself has no control over the public toilets in its limits as the maintenance of only a very few ones is formally handed over to private voluntary outfits after calling tenders. The remaining ones are just left to the mercy of the local corporators or legislators and their men.
“The toilets in Kalasipalaya, especially the ones near the bus stand, are in a bad state. The situation will improve considerably if the BBMP decides to formally hand over maintenance of these toilets by awarding contracts, or giving it to private individuals or volunteers,” said Malige Vishwanath, Deputy Controller (Karnataka), Sulabh International. Sulabh maintains five toilets near Kalasipalaya bus stand.
According to sources, the BBMP has allowed some pourakarmikas to oversee fee collection at some toilets, as an informal, temporary arrangement to offset their unpaid dues from garbage contractors. According to BBMP officials, besides private companies maintaining these toilets, some are maintained by kin of retired or expired pourakarmikas. According to the BBMP portal, Dharmaraya Swamy Temple ward (No. 119) where Kalasipalaya is located, has 23 BBMP toilets out of which five are given to Sulabh for maintenance and the remaining are shown as allotted to ‘locals’.
“If someone is engaged in illegal collection from the public toilets, we will take stern action against them. We will look into the matter,” said Sarfaraz Khan, Joint Commissioner, BBMP.
The scenario is the same with the BMTC toilets set up near the bus stand. Senior BMTC officials said that they were in the process of officially calling tenders and handing out maintenance contracts but presently the toilets were run by volunteers and not contractors. “On an average, we collect about Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,500 per day from these toilets. I give it to my boss and I am not allowed to talk much,” said Bablu, the supervisor deployed at the toilet near the bus stand.
Dhanaraj, dismissing the allegations said, that there was a group of people collecting money earlier but he had put an end to it by roping in a ‘PPP’ (public-private-partnership ) model in city market and other areas around Kalasipalya to clip the wings of such cartels. He said that he has got special permission from the BBMP commissioner to get a private individual to construct toilets in city market and nearby areas and added that such toilets cannot be called as ‘BBMP toilets’. He also claimed that this was passed by the BBMP committee. He also added that the city market toilets were built by Eijas who spent Rs 20 lakh on them. “Neither I nor my supporters take money from anyone. Whoever has told you this is lying,” Dhanaraj added.
Local MLA speaks
When contacted, Uday Garudachar, the present MLA of Chickpete constituency under which Kalasipalya falls, said that such ‘unspoken’ systems are present in every city and ward. He confirmed that he had received complaints about toilets being locked up in Kalasipalayam. “There was no water in the toilets and they were dirty. Till water supply was arranged, the toilets were locked up,” he clarified.