The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Goa garlands toilet teacher
- Felicitation for lady who staged unique protest

Panaji, Oct. 23: Goa this week felicitated a woman who urinated in public to campaign for cleaner toilets.

Deepa Murkunde hit the headlines after the “urinating incident” — as it was labelled — in a municipal office in March last year. Booked for trespass and causing damage to public property, she spent one day in jail in October after refusing to pay the Rs 500-fine on principle. “Because of the trouble she has taken, our awareness has grown,” said UGDP legislator Matanhy Saldanha, whose party supports the ruling BJP alliance.

“Our government is spending crores of rupees over unnecessary projects, yet we can’t get our basics,” added former chief minister Shashikala Kakodkar, who was part of the audience in the 50-seat hall, filled to capacity at the felicitation.

Murkunde, a middle-class citizen who has been campaigning for better civic amenities since 1995, had urinated in Margao’s Gandhi Market civic office to protest against unhygienic conditions in toilets maintained by the municipality.

A complaint was lodged against her by market inspector Dulcina Saldanha, who said Murkunde had not only soiled her office, but also her uniform, which was lying on a chair.

Murkunde spent one day in Aguada Central Jail before being coaxed by supporters to pay the Rs 500 fine. Freedom fighter Gurunath Kelekar, councillor Auda Viegas, social campaigner and businessman Datta Naik and Goa Congress chief Nirmala Sawant called on her in prison to express support for her protest against stinking toilets. Sawant was one of those who dissuaded her from serving the remaining 14 days of her term.

Aloysius D’Souza, a prominent citizen, said: “I think we should all support this lady — if the municipal toilets are messy and impossible to use, this is the ideal way of making the municipal officers fully aware of the problem and maybe, they would then get down to doing something about the situation.”

Congratulating Murkunde, freedom fighter Narayan Naik said Goa’s former Portuguese rulers were dictatorial but even they knew how to maintain sanitation in their colonies.

Murkunde said her postgraduation degree was of no use if she could not get a few toilets in Margao to be kept hygienic in spite of a campaign since 1995. “When I was tiny, I went to Aguada (the jail dates back to colonial times) to see my uncle who was a freedom fighter. This time my daughter came to see me at Aguada in independent Goa, because we can’t even get freedom (of using clean toilets),” she said.

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