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Journalist Quit Job to build a chain of clean toilets for women, Turning Old Buses into Public Toilets

by Rishika Choudhury

Date & Time: Sep 16, 2022 9:00 AM

Read Time: 3 minute

Diptendu Roy walked into a room full of aspiring entrepreneurs in 2018 to pitch his business idea, and there were chuckles and muffled laughter all around. When he returned to his seat, the well-meaning gentleman to his right inquired as to why he was so determined to waste his wife's money.

Diptendu pondered this for quite some time. After all, he had quit his well-paying job to pursue an unconventional path, and he was completely reliant on his wife at the time.

Diptendu claims that, while he was aware that his was not the first startup to consider this concept, personal experiences served as motivation and laid the groundwork for Eloo.

This pilot project is the result of an agreement between the Raipur-based startup and the self-help group (SHG) Bolpur Mahila Mahasangha.

Make travel comfortable for women

Diptendu says, “I was travelling with my wife Sunita Chakraborty on the highway in southern Chhattisgarh. For kilometres on end, there was no restroom facility available. I was still able to stop by the roadside and go behind trees, but Sunita faced immense difficulty.”

According to John Hopkins Medicine, holding one’s urine in too long can cause bladder inconsistency. The fun element of road trips is taken away for many women due to a lack of clean restrooms along the way.

Neha Sharma, a resident of Gurgaon, says, “While I enjoy backpacking and travelling, I have now started thinking twice before I take a road trip. The lack of good infrastructure is such a huge deterrent. There have been several instances when I have ended up with a bad bout of urinary tract infection (UTI) that required me to take antibiotics.”

Many women feel this pinch when they travel. Some choose not to drink water, and some choose to hold their urine in until they reach their destination, both of which cause more harm than one realises.

“Creating a comfortable travelling experience for women along highways was my primary aim in building this startup,” Diptendu says. In 2018, the idea was pitched to the 
Chhattisgarh government, and he registered for a fellowship programme being facilitated by the state government.

Through several conversations he had with dhaba owners along the highway, he found out that women abstained from drinking water throughout their journey so they wouldn’t need to use the restroom until they reached their destination. “These conversations were very revealing and left me feeling very helpless about the situation women found themselves in,” he says.

How does Eloo work?

Using old decommissioned buses, the startup launched their first prototype in Shantiniketan. He says, “These restrooms are unique because we are using these old buses to create them, which also means that our set-up costs are significantly cheaper. The restroom in Shantiniketan has three washrooms for women, one gender-neutral washroom, a bathing area, and a changing room, which also doubles as a breastfeeding area.”

The restrooms are managed by the women of Bolpur Mahila Mahasangha. In order to supplement their income, the front portion of the restrooms is used as a pantry. 

Women from the SHG are encouraged to sell light refreshments and beverages as well.

“We implemented this project under the Mission Nirmal Bangla scheme. The district administration gave us funds for women’s hygiene and sanitation projects,” says Yasmin Sultana, a leader at the SHG.

The current functional restroom has been set up in Shantiniketan, and the next few are being built along the highway in Chhattisgarh.

Ankit Chandak, an interior designer and friend of Diptendu, helped with designing the restroom. Diptendu says, “Without his technical know-how, implementing this project would have been very challenging. He left his regular job and joined me knowing well that this is not as well-paying.”

“This was a personally satisfying project,” Ankit notes. “I saw how many lives we could impact with the implementation. One of the challenges lay in creating a space that would not be suffocating for the user. We had to work with what we had, and ensure that it looked good, had enough space, and was functional.”

Also Read: छत्तीसगढ़ के रायपुर में महिलाओं को मिलेगी पिंक टॉयलेट की सुविधा, स्मार्ट टॉयलेट से स्वच्छ होगा शहर!

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