Thursday, April 25, 2024
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Down in the Dumps!

Down in the Dumps!
Anthony Lawrence

Can the government make it mandatory for hotels and restaurants to give access to the general public to their toilets based on Article 15(2) which prohibits restriction in such places? Surely toilets are not outhouses

~By Bikram Vohra

Opening the toilets of private hospitality entities like hotels and restaurants to the public in South Delhi is so absurd that you cannot even begin to absorb the ramifications.

This is not democracy at work, this is creating a state of chaos. These are places that charge huge sums of money from their patrons to maintain hygiene and offer above average cleanliness and washroom facilities. To turn this into a railway station loo for a ridiculous Rs 5 per individual is to inconvenience people who are paying up to Rs 20,000 a day to enjoy a certain level of comfort, service and ambience.

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Article 15(2) of the constitution prohibits restriction to any citizen of India on entry to a public hotel, restaurant or place of entertainment on the grounds “only of religion, race, caste, sex [and/or] place of birth”. It is a fundamental right guaranteed to all citizens of India.

Indeed, but a hotel or a restaurant is a business which charges its clientele for a certain level of service. It is not a public toilet and the entrant cannot seek the shelter of the Supreme Court decision if he intends to relieve himself and move on without a contractual obligation to use other facilities.

The Supreme Court has also stated a club or premise opened only to serve its affiliates or members shall not be considered a public place for the purpose of this provision of law.

Guests at an upscale bar enjoying the luxe ambience
Guests at an upscale bar enjoying the luxe ambience

So there are exceptions.

In its spirit, the provision under law can be so interpreted: “If a citizen of India is not denied admission purely on the basis of his/her religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, his admission to a restaurant or a hotel owned and operated by the government or private concerns may be prohibited as the rights of admission may be reserved with the management of the premises.”

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It has nothing to do with rich and poor, so let’s not even go with that argument. It is an invasion of the institution’s right of admission and is legally, morally and environmentally wrong on several counts. For one, the Rs 5 does not cover the usage of soap, colognes, water, towels, dryers, sanitation staff, toilet rolls, tissues and cleaning materials and the general crowding of the facility. Not to mention the damages. What is Rs 5 worth? Anyone can walk in, including hoods and hoodlums. And, then, how do you stop them lounging around in the lounge or parading about in other parts of the hotel while waiting to go to the bathroom?  

Second, it makes a dog’s breakfast of security and all that stuff of checking out luggage. These eateries and hotels become soft targets and compromise the safety of their residents. How do you stop people from moving into other places in the hotel, including taking elevators to other floors, generally playing mayhem with the security of the rooms and having a blast? For a hundred rupees which today buys you diddley in a bag, you can make 20 visits a day just mucking about.

Hookers, pickpockets, thieves, conmen, drug dealers, the regular Mr Fix Its who are known to the staff and usually kept away, can now trot in for a handwash and the toilet and thumb their noses at the security personnel. Whoever came up with this absurd idea has no clue how unfeasible and unworkable it is.

You pay for privilege and that is just the way things are. You travel first class on a plane, you don’t want economy passengers going to your loo.

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You pay for privilege and that is just the way things are. You travel first class on a plane, you don’t want economy passengers going to your loo. It is the same with hotels and eating houses. The toilets are not outhouses and are integral to the experience one is paying for.

Imagine, if you will, having a coffee and paying top whack for the promise of comfort and then discovering you have to stand in a queue like at a railway station junction while coupons are being dished out to all and sundry so they can take a leak. Tomorrow, this could extend to toilets in the health club. So by the same logic, why should there be any resistance to people choosing to go to the gym toilet?

Take it a step further. The safety of women and children is also compromised. Toilets are dangerous places and with the high density population in Delhi, one would be hard placed to avoid a certain paranoia if your young daughter or wife has gone to the ladies room in what will be an open house.

This is in the daytime. Move that to late night when the gremlins come out to have some fun. Don’t let’s make this into an “everyone is equal” thing. Everyone is not equal beyond a certain point and the financial investment is just that difference. 

By the same logic, why not also offices, government and private, excuse me, here’s five bucks where’s the executive bathroom. All that the hotels can do is up their security measures and make it immensely difficult to pay that five bucks to get to the toilet.

You are welcome, sir, by law, but you have to wait till the X-ray machine starts functioning, we have a problem and we cannot compromise security, you understand that.