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Tamil Nadu's Swachh Bharat report card: The journey of Swachh Bharat Mission in Tamil Nadu

It has taken 19 years for the Centre and the State governments to declare a highly urbanised state like Tamil Nadu as open defecation free (ODF) state with 100 per cent of the families having access to toilets, thanks to the much-campaigned high profile Swachh Bharat scheme.

Tamil Nadus Swachh Bharat report card: The journey of Swachh Bharat Mission in Tamil Nadu
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While the state rural development ministry and the union ministry of drinking water and sanitation claim that TN is now an ODF state, the reactions from the activists contradict the official statement.  

“Going by the chronology, the initiative was started way back in 1999 when the State with the help of Central funds introduced total sanitation campaign. Then it was extended to all the districts in Tamil Nadu till 2004. The total sanitation campaign was renamed as Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan in 2012,” explains an informed senior official with Tamil Nadu Rural Development department. Then in 2014, the Swachh Bharat scheme was launched on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and a timeline of declaring Indian states as ODF states were fixed as 2019. 

Kanniyakumari is the first district in TN to attain the ODF status and within a year the district recorded above 90 per cent coverage under individual household toilets constructed, recalls the officer admitting that the scheme was intensely promoted in the district by the lone TN BJP MP turned union minister Pon Radhakrishnan elected from Kanniyakumari Lok Sabha constituency. Coimbatore and Tirunelveli were districts to follow. Backward districts like Ariyalur, Perambalur and Cuddalore gained momentum in the scheme in 2916-17, the official recalled.

According to the union government website, Tamil Nadu has got a beneficiary list of 48,29,220 households. Though the ministry has failed to provide the district-wise break-up, the data accessed by DT Next from the Chennai Corporation revealed that Chennai was the district with least number of toilets built (under both the individual household category and community category). For a city like Chennai that supports a population of about 80 lakhs, the state and the centre has allocated Rs 7.73 crore, where 6890 toilets under individual category and 1,077 community group toilets were constructed.

“To make the city free from open defecation, the Corporation has constructed additional 1,077 public toilets in areas like bus terminus, beach and public areas. Besides the above scheme Corporation under its capital funds had also proposed to construct 498 common public toilets in 21 places like bus terminus, railway stations and parks,” Corporation Commissioner D Karthikeyan told DT Next.

The main objectives of the SBM were to bring an improvement in the general quality of life in the rural areas, by promoting cleanliness, hygiene and eliminating open defecation and it has been a great boon in rural Tamil Nadu, says TN BJP state general secretary Vanathi Srinivasan. “TN has got 48 lakh subsidised toilets and a lot of awareness has increased in the state only after the launch of Swachh Bharath scheme by PM Modiji, now it is for the state to make the good work continue, she said. I have adopted my village Ulliyam Palayam in Thondamuthur and the results are encouraging, but in some areas, the public toilets are not maintained forcing people to avoid them. We have reached out to a few NGOs to do the maintenance and ensure that the project is a success,” she added.

“It’s a good scheme, but I beg to differ with the Centre and state saying that entire state is now free from open defecation. A walk to congested pockets and slum tenements will expose open defecation,” says former mayor and Saidapet legislator M Subramanian. “Not many in my constituency benefitted from the scheme and the project was designed on the basis of the 2011 census, which is outdated for a project that was commissioned in 2015,” the legislator noted.

Toilets built under the Scheme in Tamil Nadu since 2014 
District-wise break up of data
Data obtained from State Coordinator, Swachh Bharat Mission, Tamil Nadu
  1. Ariyalur: 1,25,495
  2. Coimbatore: 99,875
  3. Cuddalore: 2,71,550
  4. Dharmapuri: 1,80,479
  5. Dindigul: 2,01,204
  6. Erode: 1,38,584
  7. Kanchipuram: 2,05,059
  8. Kanniyakumari: 6,082
  9. Karur: 89,619
  10. Krishnagiri: 2,28,765
  11. Madurai: 1,65,671
  12. Nagapattinam: 1,70,090
  13. Namakkal: 1,47,846
  14. Nilgris: 36,533
  15. Perambalur: 67,319
  16. Pudukkottai: 1,32,597
  17. Ramanathapuram: 1,35,946
  18. Salem: 2,57,773
  19. Sivaganga: 1,20,310
  20. Thanjavur: 2,30,258
  21. Theni: 51,342
  22. Thoothukudi: 1,43,425
  23. Tiruchy: 1,88,397
  24. Tirunelveli: 1,97,692
  25. Tirupur: 1,37,227
  26. Tiruvallur: 1,57,896
  27. Tiruvannamalai: 2,19,824
  28. Tiruvarur: 1,02,725
  29. Vellore: 2,90,014
  30. Villupuram: 3,64,899
  31. Virudhunagar: 1,19,264

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