Behind every innovation, there lies a story. Before I disclose what the innovation is, I will share you the story which inspired us
by Saurabha Pandey
(New Delhi, Delhi, India)
Behind every innovation, there lies a story. Before I disclose what the innovation is, I will share you the story which inspired us.
One day I (Saurabha Pandey) was walking down a street in New Delhi for some work, far away from my Residence/Office. While I was busy looking for some stuff in the market I felt an urgent push to urinate. I never pee in public, not only did I feel ashamed but also I think that is too un-hygienic.
I wanted to go back home but it was too far and the pain in my lower abdomen wouldn’t have resisted it for so long, which insisted me to seek an alternative.
My mind was going blank, as I could hardly control myself. So, I went inside the next shop and asked the shopkeeper, if they can allow me to use their toilet as I was in some desperation. To my surprise he said, we don’t have a personalized toilet here at a shop, but advised me to use the public toilet. I thought, that wasn’t a bad idea.
He asked me to walk ahead to the same lane for 2 minutes in the direction where the shopkeeper was pointing and there you will find the public toilet. So, I followed the direction suggested to me and when I reached the place, I was in utter disbelief.
This wasn’t a public toilet but an open barren land which was used by all the commuters for Sanitation purpose. I being a responsible citizen felt I should not follow the same but find a proper toilet to urinate.
I asked another shopkeeper and he again directed me to the same place and said – “we all use the same place, there is no charge associated with it”. I asked him if there was any Govt. built public toilets like those of Sulabh Shochalaya, built here.
He was amazed that I was still not convinced and was trying to find a proper place for sanitation. He told me, I heard there is one in a nearby locality but I don’t know its exact location.
I could understand that what he was saying is correct too and also this wasn’t a time when I was up for any discussion. By now, I lost my control and I wanted a place to urinate before it gets too late. Lastly, with no other option available to me, I had to prefer that open area to pee.
I felt bad for this, because as a responsible citizen I felt it was my duty to not only ensure that I advocate proper sanitation but also promote clean India.
Later when I started for my home, the same incident kept me busy for the whole route. I was wondering the importance of proper sanitation. "What if it wasn’t me but my Mother or Sister or any other lady? What will they do? They can’t go
to open areas like that;" they will have to rush back to find a safer place like their home, friend’s house or some public toilets. I figured out there was more than one road block to this.
This was a time when our honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi was trying his best with the help of Government Allies to promote the “Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan" (Clean India Movement).
I was very much inspired by this campaign and wanted to contribute to it. But how? Do I need to pick a groom and go on for cleaning the roads, is that the only way? Yes, this was one of the many ways but the incident that happened in the morning forced me to do something more substantial.
I remember the conversation with one of the shop keepers early in the morning, when he said, possibly there is a public toilet nearby but I don’t know how far it is and where exactly to locate it. I have heard that Indian Govternment has established many such public toilets all over India, but must are not used by commuters when needed, because most don’t know where exactly to find them.
Being a software professional I wanted to use technology and contribute to this issue and bring a resolution to this for everyone out there. Yes, it is then I decided to build one mobile application which will help people find the details of nearby public toilets for any area.
This in turn will promote the Clean India movement and advocate a healthy nation which understands the meaning and importance of proper sanitation and good hygiene.
Now, I was serious about implementing this idea and in the process of it, I met Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak(Social Reformer and Founder Sulabh Sanitation Movement) who also happens to be a winner of Padma Vibhushan from Government. of India.
He really liked the concept and appreciated me for coming up with such a nice idea. In this mobile world, the best way to educate citizens is through apps. He found this whole idea very useful and promised me to help wherever possible and I started working on it.
Once I started building this app, I found that the detail of public toilets is not listed anywhere through any government website or public forum. So,I wrote an email to our honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi seeking help. To which, I got a response from his team “Your suggestion is welcomed” and forwarded my request to Drinking Water & Sanitation department.
Meanwhile, I filed a RTI to Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation requesting them to share the details of public toilets in India. In response to my request,I was told that details for all public toilets in India and its location are not available to any single department.
That is, there is no centralized data with Central Govt. which has information for all the Public Toilets, the details were though available with respective Municipalities.
Now, for a country like India it was almost impossible for us to get all the data from every city by filing on RTI to each municipality. So, I came up with a workaround, I have added a feature called "Suggest" on our portal FindJakes.com
(click on the “Suggest Toilet” button), and request everyone to help me gather as much data possible. If you know a public toilet then please provide us precise information about the locality, address, city, district and state for any public toilet nearby your area or the ones you are aware of. We will upgrade our application weekly to show this data in the app and this way we together can build a centralized system where the data can be made available for any public
toilets in India.
This will also help Govt.to keep a track of all the public toilets as regular feedback will be generated from random citizens who in turn will guide the local Municipality to improve any infrastructure problem identified and keep the
Also, the motive of building public toilets will be fulfilled. Additionally, for women this will be an added advantage as they can now know where the public toilets are, and use them whenever needed and may not rush for home.
This is no philanthropy but an honest attempt to build a society which prioritizes the need of a good health not just for their immediate family but for the entire nation. I alongside Tanay Mukherjee who is part of this whole process, are trying to digitize the Sanitation movement of India and we urge you to help us achieve this aim. Will you mind joining our hands for this?
NOTE: We have a prototype already launched for this, and you can see it from Android play store. The name of the application is “Find Jakes”. The sole restriction right now is that the data is visible only for Parts of New Delhi.
Citizens outside Delhi will not find any data for their city as we don’t have the data for public toilets there, but that’s why we need your participation to make this turn into a reality for whole of India. As soon as we start getting
more data, we will upgrade the app with the details and will thus be able to penetrate throughout the country.