While massive projects to improve connectivity and basic infrastructure at a few hundred crores of rupees are currently on in different parts of the southern suburbs of Chennai, a key area that cries for attention is sanitation, particularly in backward pockets.

An example is the condition of the Integrated Women and Children Sanitary complexes located in different places coming under the jurisdiction of panchayats and municipalities. One such complex in Madipakkam, for instance, highlights the need for the government agencies and elected representatives to do more to take proper care of a crucial amenity for the welfare of residents, especially the poor.

Constructed at a cost of about Rs. 2 lakh in 2002-2003 as part of a Statewide project to improve levels of hygiene and sanitation, to prevent open defecation and to empower women’s groups, the complex functioned only for a few months and has been in disuse since then.

The complex is located near the St. Thomas Mount Panchayat Union Middle School and behind the Village Panchayat Office.

A huge gaping hole in the rear side of the compound wall made it easy to enter the complex that now has become a meeting point for miscreants to consume liquor. Neither women’s groups nor the panchayat-level federation were willing to come forward and take responsibility for maintaining it. S. Harikrishnan, a resident of Sathsangam Street in Madipakkam and Joint Secretary of the South Chennai Unit of Democratic Youth Federation of India, said the status of the complex only reflected the amount of importance accorded to sanitation and hygiene by Madipakkam Village Panchayat and even the District Rural Development Agency.

Panchayat union staff said they were making an audit of such complexes and how many among them were functioning. They were hopeful of reviving these facilities that could significantly improve sanitation levels.

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