The Tamil Nadu government’s ‘Thooimai Kaavalar’ scheme, under which garbage collection and segregation is done by self-help groups, has caught the attention of the Central government.
Sources said that since MGNREG Scheme funds are used to pay the salaries of the staff for 100 days and the rest is borne by the State government from its Solid Waste Management Fund, it is a model that can be implemented in other States too. Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, have already initiated work. “A team from Telangana was here on Tuesday to study the model,” the source explained.
Announced in the 2015 budget
The scheme was announced in the 2015 budget for 2,000 panchayats. After its success, it was extended by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to 7,000 more villages. The work, which began in the second set of panchayats in February this year with an allocation of Rs. 300 crore, has picked up steam after elections.
There are 18,000 ‘Thooimai Kaavalars’ now, who have to collect a minimum of 40 kg of waste from 150 homes and segregate it to get the minimum wage of Rs. 183 a day. The State has a total of 12,524 panchayats.
For the women, it means a steady income. Meena Iyappan of Munnoor village in Villupuram district, who collects garbage everyday from 150 homes in the village, says since her husband is out of work the money is very handy to run the family. “My daughter is doing her nursing course. Though I cannot afford the Rs. 1 lakh fees, I save a some money to meet her travel expenses,” she said. A physically demanding job, women say they are looked down upon by the villagers.
“But we do it to keep the village clean and pollution-free,” says Bhagyam Pandurangan. But there are many who respect us a lot, she adds.
The panchayats also earn a small income from the sale of plastics, bottles, iron and tin. Vasanthi Murugesan, president of Munnoor village, said they had earned Rs. 15,000 from the sale of 1.5 tonnes of compost.
“We get money from sale of the recyclables from time-to-time,” she said.