“We are residing in a small thatched house and constructing toilet was a herculean task for my family because of which we were defecating in the open but after the construction of toilet under Swachh Bharat scheme we have stopped defecating in the open and are maintaining toilets on our own”, said Mallika, a home maker from Paramakudi, a small town located 40 km away from Ramanathapuram.
Like Mallika, lakhs of people in rural areas of Tamil Nadu, have benefitted by the toilets constructed under Swachh Bharat scheme. Ramanathapuram district, which is one of the backward districts in the state, is now an open-defecation free district as 1,35,946 individual toilets and 29 community toilets were constructed in 429 panchayats, said Ramanathapuram Collector, K.Veera Raghav Rao.
Apart from the concept of clean India, the individual toilets had also brought a sense of security among women and girls residing in villages.
“Earlier, we used to defecate in a coconut farm nearby and women had to go either in the morning before sunrise or in the evening after sunset. They were not feeling secure but after the construction of toilets under Swachh Bharat scheme, women in my family are much relieved”, said Krishaboopathy, a daily wage earner from Vadalivilai, a remote village in Kanniyakumari district.
The main reason for the success of Swachh Bharat scheme is the effective implementation in the rural areas and local bodies providing necessary support for the construction and maintenance of toilets. Raja from Mittalli village in Krishnagiri district said, “After the construction of toilets under Swachh Bharat scheme open defecation had been completely eradicated in our village. The local administration should also be appreciated for their support in supplying necessary water to the toilets which helps in maintaining the toilets”.
People in rural areas who did not initially come forward to build toilets were forced to construct toilets by some village panchayats, however for a good cause. “Initially we were bit reserved in constructing toilets but when I went to work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme the workers were instructed that people who construct toilets would only be allotted work. By saying so the Panchayat also gave us Rs 12,000 for constructing toilets. Earlier, we struggled a lot during rainy days but now toilets have helped us to a great deal”, said Selvi, from Kadaiyakudi village in Pudukkottai district.
Apart from individual toilets, community toilets too have reduced open defecation to a great deal. A community toilet constructed in Mariamman Kovil Street in Nerinjipettai in Erode district is now used by around 400 persons in the street and according to the residents, the toilets are neatly maintained. “Before the toilets were in place we used to cross the roads for defecation but now we use the toilets constructed in our street. However, only six toilets are in place and it is not sufficient for us. We find it difficult in the mornings and evenings and so additional toilets would benefit us. Our houses are too small to house individual toilets and so we largely rely on community toilets”, said Sivagami, a resident of Mariamman Kovil street.
However, in Chennai the scenario is not the same and though toilets are in place they are neither maintained properly nor connected with the sewer line. “Officials initially assured that they will visit their houses once in three months for maintenance of toilets but now the pipes are broken and water is getting wasted. Despite repeated requests, officials did not visit their houses and so I had to spend money from my own pocket to repair a part of the broken pipes, which I cannot afford every other time”, said Ravi Shanmugam from Sembiyan, in Perambur.
The survey was jointly conducted by the editorial teams of Daily Thanthi, Thanthi TV, Maalai Malar and DT Next, covering all districts of Tamil Nadu and All constituencies of Chennai. For this survey, a total of 687 persons were interviewed.