By Ankita Prasad:
Imagine trying to pee into a tiny vial inside a room, with barely any space to manoeuvre. That’s exactly what I was expected to do, recently, in a toilet that had ants swarming all over and around it! And yes, instead of a mug, there was a rusty metal can. As I contemplated whether to relieve myself, the immense pain I felt due to a suspected UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) was only exacerbated by my urgent need to pee.
Ironically, this toilet was located inside a health centre, where I had gone to check whether it was, indeed, a UTI that was causing me pain. Worse still, it was in a health centre in one of India’s most prominent university, one that is frequented by students who are unwell, every day.
I happened to be pursuing my Master’s in Linguistics at the university, and living in an independent accommodation. This meant that I was generally on a tight budget, which is why, when I contracted what I suspected was a UTI, I didn’t consider going to a private hospital. Instead, I opted for an infinitely more affordable (read: free) health centre inside the university premises.
At the centre I was asked to give a urine sample. Thinking it would be best to get it over with quickly, I took the little vial and entered the toilet. But given the situation, I changed my mind and was forced to use one of the toilets in a hostel nearby. The idea of using an unhygienic toilet for the purpose of detecting a UTI is kind of ironic.
My UTI was eventually cured. But I cannot help but wonder, what if the pain of holding back my pee that day, had worsened the infection? What if I had contracted a more serious infection because of the unclean facilities in the health centre? Is our expectation from a public facility so low that we are desensitised to its lack of maintenance?
As a young girl my parents had instilled the importance of hygiene, especially when it comes to sanitation and healthcare. However, the full impact of my parents’ words really hit me that day at the centre, when I realised how the health of students is being taken for granted. I ask this – is it right that just because the health care offered at a university is free of cost, it should be so substandard that it puts students at risk? If this is the attitude at one of the top universities in the national capital, I can only imagine what it might be like in far-flung reaches of our country.
In 2016, the Government of India allocated INR 9000 crore towards the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, for improved sanitation in our country. Let’s make sure this funding is put to good use! Whether you come across sub-standard public facility in your office, college or at the airport, write about it, share photographs, and Tweet to us at @YouthKiAwaaz, too. Let’s demand better hygiene at public utilities across the nation!