The Complexities of Inaugurating a Public Toilet

The Complexities of Inaugurating a Public Toilet

Some days ago, while taking our usual morning walk at the nearby public park, we saw a small gathering of the regular morning walkers. Some of them beckoned us to join them. After the gathering had become sizable, one of the persons (Shanku) cleared his throat and said, “We are proud to announce that the new public toilet of this park will be soon inaugurated – thanks to all of you for the support.” he pointed to a  newly erected set of green boxes, which were being given finishing touches. I was not sure of the support I had given, but decided against voicing it.

Attached is a picture of the toilet (appropriately masked/ hazed out to protect the privacy rights of the public toilet – by the way, do public toilets have privacy rights?).

Shanku continued, “We have invited an important officer of the municipal corporation – the DC of …. for the inauguration scheduled on the 15th of this month, at 10:00AM. I request that all of you remember to come for the inauguration.”

“By the way, this is one of the first virtual public toilets in Bangalore”. This elicited some minor clapping and murmurs of appreciation. After some time, a squeaky voice ventured, “But how does one do it virtually? I would prefer to physically use a toilet.” The appreciation changed to apprehension. Soon the confusion was cleared, it was meant to be an e-toilet, with the “e” representing some kind of automated flushing based on electronic sensors.

Shanku tried to regain the control with his next point, “It also has extensive security features – hidden CCTV cameras everywhere.” That resulted in more grumbling “they are going to take my photo while I am….?”. Again, after some consultation, it was clarified that the cameras were not hidden, and were placed just at the entrance to the toilet area.

The next point was identifying the master of ceremonies on the inauguration day. One Krishnan was assigned the role, as he could fluently speak multiple languages – Kannada, Hindi, English, Telugu and Tamil.

We were getting ready to leave, when we heard Shanku say to Krishnan, “We all tolerate you saying ‘tashreef rakhiye’ to us, because we are friends, but please do not insult our chief guest by saying ‘tashreef rakhiye’ – especially near a toilet.” Shanku patted his backside emphatically.

That was when I decided that I should take my tashreef away.

Jokes apart:

A lot is being done by many agencies in increasing the number of public toilets and their cleanliness, especially cities and larger towns of India. However, a lot more needs to be done. You can get feel of the magnitude of the problem by reading some all-India data here, here, and here.

We need a lot more social enterprises addressing this need till the tipping point is reached – and hope that some of the start-ups and social entrepreneurs work in this area, rather than just build another app to locate the nearest public toilet.

Please feel free to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature.

Author: Rajesh Naik

I'm Rajesh Naik, and this is my personal website If you are interested in contacting me, I am also available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite.

8 thoughts on “The Complexities of Inaugurating a Public Toilet”

  1. Cheers to setting up of public toilets. This is in line with the Swachh Bharat mission and much needed public convenience across India (we could do with many more across the length and breadth of the country to supplement what exists).

    However an event like an inauguration of a public toilet poses several dilemmas:

    1. What is the criteria to select a chief guest for the ceremony? Does the chief guest need to have prior experience with public toilets? Are there specialists in toilet inauguration available in the market (domain expertise)?

    2. Do you need to engage priests for the inaugural? What rituals need to be adopted? Do we need to break coconuts and light lamps? Can coconuts be broken on toilet seats?

    3. Does the chief guest have to be the 1st user of the toilet? With his/her tashreef? Will this be photographed ? And published? Will the public need to witness this act ?

    4. Will flushing the tank after toilet usage be accompanied by claps from the audience? If its a e-toilet, what will be the signal to the audience to start clapping? Will the chief guest have to use his thumb or forefinger to convey the completion of the inaugural act?

    5. Does one garland the toilet seat ?

    6. Will sweets be distributed to mark the occasion? Will these be distributed inside the toilet?

    7. In the “thank you speech” at the end of the ceremony, will the host thank the Chief guest saying “thanks for gracing the occasion with your tashreef”?

    8. Post the inaugural, will the participants to the ceremony queue up to use the toilet? Will they be given toilet tokens? Will some one get the lucky tokens (for priority usage or for commemorative purposes- like, the 1st 100 to use the toilet).

    Given the complexity and sensitivities involved in the inaugural of a public toilet (and the associated societal impact), I believe a Process consultant might need to be engaged to document a SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for toilet inaugurations to replicate the practices and scale up such endeavors. Learning(s) from each inaugural (especially chief guest experiences) may need to be documented.

    Design thinking experts may need to come in to enhance user experience across touch points (oops).

    More seriously, Multi cheers to this social endeavor.

    1. Thanks, Prakash. The inauguration seems more complex that the toilet building after reading your comments 🙂

      1. 3 cheers to the initiative… we need more and more individuals, groups and enterprises to join hands for more public toilets. I would guess the big corporates with their huge CSR budgets can definitely contribute.

  2. Wondering how many hidden cameras and what data is the municipality wants to capture.. jokes apart, the initiative has been quite effective and I hope they could sustain the initiative

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *