Public sanitation and hygiene are two extremely important issues of rural India and need to be better addressed than they usually are. Mayank Midha, CEO of GARV Toilets, and his team have come up with some extraordinary ways to provide a smart solution to the sanitation problems prevalent in the country.
While growing up in India, we have often heard that public hygiene and toilets are not only lacking in rural areas but are a problem in our cities as well. For a very long time, it has always been easy for men to use open spaces and public areas but the story is different for womenfolk. I was aware of these existing problems. The trigger was when I was pursuing my course at the Institute of Rural Management in 2007-2008 when we had to stay in different villages and rural areas, and then I realised the actual problem and the harsh reality.
Back then, my course was all about manufacturing electrical and hardware components and I decided to put that knowledge into a better field which would lead to something fruitful. By that time the Central government had declared the Swachh Bharat Mission and a lot of work was going on. That was when I made a team and brainstormed as to how we could get more public toilets which would be in fabricated formats and can be installed rapidly. Thus, at the end of 2014, we started our journey towards installing public toilets targeting the low-income communities in different areas.
USP of GARV:
Public toilets these days are very few in number in both rural and urban areas. Poor and irregular maintenance of toilets makes it difficult for them to come up in large numbers.
Initially, when we started, we wanted to keep two issues in focus and build our toilet systems. Our toilets, unlike others, are made of stainless steel so that they are of higher endurance; difficult to break and are super easy to clean. Our toilets have automated cleaning systems so that the issue of irregular maintenance can be handled. We can track their real-time condition as the toilets can send back pictures and information to our cloud system where we can see if there is any malfunction and our teams can address them. The Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled design is integrated with solar panels, battery packs, auto flush and floor cleaning technology.
When we were on our initial journey and were just installing toilets, we understood the importance and need of children-friendly units. We came up with our ‘peek-a-boo’ toilets which come with urinals for the boys and men. Similarly, we came up with ‘Garv Swabhiman’ which is designed specifically for girls and women. These toilets come with automated sanitary napkin dispensers and disposal bins considering menstrual hygiene in mind.
In Covid times:
The recent lockdown has taught us how more focus should be on cleanliness and hygiene. Cleanliness has always been our top priority. Our toilets are designed in such a manner that they can self clean themselves and are installed with touch-free taps with zero contact. But recently, we are focusing more on sanitisation since the disadvantage of public toilets is that many people go one after the other at short intervals which increases the chances of infection. Thus, we have introduced a process where the toilets will have an automatic sanitisation process once a person leaves it. A disinfectant will be sprayed and the process will take just a few seconds after which the other person can enter. Some small measures have been taken to ensure the safety and cleanliness of the public toilets.
Since the time we have come up with public toilets in different rural areas, villages and schools, the response has been overwhelming. Reports have come to us that earlier girls used to miss schools and many would drop out because of lack of toilets but the rate has now come down. Many areas were completely devoid of clean toilets and now its access has improved their lives to a large extent. Of course, this is a social business but when we look at the health parameters and the difference we have been able to bring about, it has given us a reason to celebrate and be proud of.
Personal hygiene, clean toilets and public utilities are a basic necessity and it is high time that people across the country start addressing these issues. We have already done our bit and would request all stakeholders, public parties and private enterprises and most importantly, people in general to adopt the right measures. Health and hygiene facilities must be taken seriously. Bringing about a change that you wish to see is not easy but it is also important to initiate it for the betterment of society.