An important scheme to improve the health and lifestyle of residents in rural pockets around Tambaram and also to improve access to proper sanitation is in disarray owing to neglect on the part of State government agencies. 

The Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) of the Ministry of Rural Development aims at elimination of open defecation in rural areas and ensuring that all households, schools and Children's Centres of Integrated Child Development Services or government-run creches have toilets. The scheme also mandates the construction of at least one integrated sanitary complex in every rural local body. An important component of the TSC is construction of Individual Household Latrines (IHHL) for which beneficiaries are given a subsidy of Rs. 3,200. 

In the southern suburbs of Chennai that come under St. Thomas Mount Panchayat Union (also called Development Block) comprising 15 village panchayats, staff of the panchayat union who are given targets for constructing the IHHLs wonder if they will be able to meet them.

The target for this year is 750 toilets.

Staff members point out that the post of Block Coordinator for TSC in the panchayat union has been lying vacant for nearly six months. It is the duty of the coordinator to receive applications and make spot visits to ensure the toilet is constructed as per norms before issuing the cheque to the beneficiary. 

However, in the absence of the block coordinator, it has become difficult to identify beneficiaries and all the work is done by staff, who are not technically qualified. The block coordinator's job is to mobilise public opinion through awareness campaigns and to involve students in school sanitation. The coordinator also motivates elected representatives, staff and people living in village panchayats and prepares them to receive the prestigious Nirmal Gram Puraskar. 

Mudichur, Vengaivaasal, Sithalapakkam and Kaarapakkam received the award in 2008. But since then, there has been no major thrust given to this crucial scheme of the Central and State governments to improve sanitation levels in rural pockets. 

Further, the Rural Sanitary Mart in Medavakkam, where toilet closets are manufactured and handed over to beneficiaries at a subsidised rate, is unused since 2007 and is now, ironically, an open toilet. Incidentally, the post of district coordinator for the same scheme is also vacant.

The Kancheepuram district administration seems to be in no mood to spruce up the facility and bring it back to life, said A. Rafi, a Medavakkam resident.

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