The Bombay High Court on Monday said the condition of toilets in schools across Maharashtra was very bad, and asked the state government if it was powerless or waiting for some auspicious day to frame a policy on the issue. A division bench of Justices Prasanna Varale and Sharmila Deshmukh said it was “pained by the sorry state of affairs".
The court was hearing a petition filed by two law students Nikita Gore and Vaishnavi Gholave, raising concerns over the central and state governments not implementing effective menstrual hygiene management resulting in women, and particularly adolescent girls, facing problems. The petition also pointed out the issue of unclean and unhygienic washrooms and toilets for girls in government aided schools.
Pursuant to orders from the court in July this year, the Maharashtra District Legal Services Authority (MDLSA) carried out a survey of schools in Mumbai city, suburbs and neighbouring districts and a report was submitted to the court on Monday. As per the report, 235 schools were surveyed out of which the condition of toilets in 207 schools was found below standards.
After perusing the report, the HC said the condition of toilets in schools was very bad. “And the report is about schools in urban areas like Mumbai suburbs. If this is the situation in urban areas, just imagine the situation in rural areas. What are the state government’s education officers doing? Is it not the duty of your (government) officers to carry out periodic checks?" Justice Varale sought to know.
The court sought to know why the state government was not framing a policy on the issue. “Is the state government powerless to frame a policy? Are you (government) waiting for any auspicious day to do this?" the court asked.
The bench said it was abstaining from using harsh words and asked if the education officers were stopped from carrying out periodic checks in schools. Additional government pleader BP Samant told the court that the government was raising awareness among students, parents and school management on the issue.
The court then asked what about duties of the government. “Look at the realities of life. Is this the approach that the state government should adopt? This is a very sorry state of affairs. This pains us," Justice Varale said. The bench directed the petitioners and the state government to peruse the report and posted the matter for further hearing after four weeks.