In Kokkarapati village (TN), dilapidated public toilets cause difficulty, disease and humiliation.
Although the level of investment has increased in the last decade, India is still lagging behind in its sanitation facilities. It was estimated in 2008 that more than 638 million Indians had no access to a toilet, and were forced to use fields or roadsides. Only 21% of the rural areas had proper public sanitation facilities.
Often, the lack of monitoring and the negligence of local politicians undermine the quality of projects that could have significantly improved the lives of local inhabitants. Indeed, the institutions in charge of operating and maintaining the infrastructure are often weak, lacking funding, or plagued by graft.
This is the case in Kokkarapati village, in Trichy district, Tamil Nadu, where the 2500 inhabitants are deprived of any sanitation facilities. Public toilets were constructed seven years ago, but they soon fell into disrepair, because the pump that provided the water supply stopped working, and did not get repaired. The villagers have been demanding their administrators to undertake the necessary work, but their requests remain unanswered. The majority of the villagers are poor, and the public toilets were the only sanitation they could rely on, and they are now left with no other choice than defecating in the fields, or in any space where they can afford a bit of privacy.
Margaret, our Community correspondent in the area, used to visit the village to organize community activities for the school children. On one of her visits, she felt moved by the lot of the villagers, who have been left without toilets for the last 5 years. “The situation is particularly difficult for women, because they feel ashamed when have to go in the open. So they go late in the evening or very early morning,” explains Margaret. “During every election campaign, politicians come to the village and promise that the toilets will be repaired, but once they are elected nothing happens,” she adds.
This situation involves more than embarrassment and inconvenience. Indeed, the lack of inadequate sanitation facilities causes significant health hazards. The World Health Organization estimates that around 700,000 Indians are dying of diarrhea every year. Margaret, a long time activist, is determined to make change happen. As soon as possible, she wants to show her video to the Block Development Officer, to confront him with his responsibilities, and to the villagers and local women groups, to help them mobilize to get their rights fulfilled.