A civic authority in the Indian capital wants hotels and restaurants to open their toilets to the public for a fee, but industry representatives said they would challenge such an order in court.
The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) plans to make it mandatory for hotels and restaurants to provide access to its toilets to people who aren't customers. They could charge up to 5 rupees for a loo visit.
The decision, to be effective from from April 1, would make more than 4,000 toilets available to the public at no cost to the taxpayer, SDMC commissioner Puneet Kumar Goel said.
The SDMC is one of three divisions of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi that provides civic services to the national capital.
Lack of access to toilets is an issue India, especially for women. Nearly half of the country's 1.2bn people do not have toilets at home and many people urinate and defecate outdoors, especially in rural areas.
It is common to see men peeing on streets even in cities.
"This would be especially beneficial for women who often have problems due to lack of toilets in busy marketplaces," Goel said.
He said a provision of allowing access to toilets would be added to health trade licences given to eateries.
Hotel and restaurant owners were unhappy with the order and said once they received it they would take legal recourse.
"No one has seen this order and it will never stand in court as it violates our right to admission to begin with," said Rahul Singh, honorary secretary of the National Restaurant Association of India.
"We are sending representations to the Delhi governor, mayor and the commissioner. We are also looking at legal options," said Garish Oberoi, treasurer of industry forum Hotel and Restaurant Association of Northern India.
"Of course there is a shortage of toilets and the government needs to find ways to meet that shortage. But how can they push the responsibility on private property owners?" Oberoi said.
Both Oberoi and Singh pointed to the Swachh Bharat cess, a levy imposed by the government to raise funds for sanitation projects including building of toilets.
"Lack of sanitation facilities in India - it's a terrible situation, but they (government) have the money, they have the land unlike say places like Singapore - but they just cannot do it," said Singh.
Oberoi said it was quite common for restaurants and hotels abroad to refuse access to toilets to passersby, but in India most often when someone needed to use the facility badly they would be allowed. "But that does not mean it can be made mandatory."
"They want to push us towards not having toilets at all, it is such a thoughtless move," Oberoi said.
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