Meet 49-Year-Old Mazharkhodi Dhanasekar Who Brought Toilets And Drinking Water To A Lost Panchayat.
20 July 2017
Bringing drinking water and toilets to a lost panchayat, this woman has transformed and gained attention due to her commendable activities and rendering services which were completely ignored by officials until she was elected president in 2011.
We are talking about Mazharkhodi Dhanasekar who built 650 toilets and made her panchayat free of open defecation in southern Tamil Nadu. This 49-year woman who is president of Melamarungoor Panchayat in Sivagangai district of Tamil Nadu has carved out a distinct identity for herself and overtaken men in road construction, providing drinking water and toilets, as the first part of her series of activities.
This 49-year woman who is president of Melamarungoor Panchayat in Sivagangai district of Tamil Nadu has carved out a distinct identity for herself and overtaken men in road construction, providing drinking water and toilets, as the first part of her series of activities.
The block or district officials would hardly ever come to visit their panchayat. They didn’t care about far-flung panchayats like theirs. This meant they wouldn’t be allocating extra funds for development. It was sad because they didn’t exist for them.
The roads there were pocked with potholes. On some stretches, only blobs of tar remain, the rest was mud. It is an arid part of the state and the villages struggle to find drinking water. Women and schoolgirls in uniform line up plastic pots near common drinking-water taps as the water would come once in four days.
Mazharkhodi had a strong will to change all this. So in the same regard, she realised that the district administration took notice of their panchayat which was to be completely transformed. And she managed to tackle everything.
When six years ago she assumed office, her main cause for concern was the balance sheet of her panchayat. In the year 2005, eight villages from Ramanathapuram district were added to the 17 governed by the Melamarungoor panchayat.
Now, an addition of eight villages had to bring in the grants as well. But however, State Finance Commission (SFC) grants of these eight villages were not reallocated to Melamarungoor. SFC grants are the funds which are devolved by the state government and are the single biggest source of income for panchayats.
Mazharkhodi firstly managed to get those SFC grants which took a stream of petitions, weekly attendance at the district collector office and more than six months of correspondence between the state department of rural development and the district administration.
After accomplishing her first target, she turned her attention next to the scarcity of drinking water. It took her five years to bring drinking water to seven villages.
“I had to petition the Kalaiyarkovil panchayat union president (the panchayat union is the second tier of local government, a group of all gram panchayats in the Block) to get Rs 300,000 sanctioned for a reserve osmosis (RO) plant in one of those eight villages, so that villages around can get better drinking water,” said Mazharkhodi.
Initially, before the RO set up, people purchased water at Rs 30 per pt. And now they pay Rs 5 per pot. Mazharkhodi has brought extreme changes in her panchayat which is appreciable.
Another challenge was shortage and value of money. Shortage of funds is a major issue which is faced by most panchayat in India. For a first-time politician to gather funds from other elected representatives is usually a great havoc.
Mazharkhodi has been successful in achieving great heights. She not only built 650 toilets in her panchayat, but she did it cheaper than others, spending Rs 13,500 per toilet of which Rs 12,000 is subsidised by the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission).
Still, Mazharkhodi had to spend more than Rs 100,000 of her own money to manage the shortfall. She is willing to spend her own money because of her determination to put Melamarungoor on the district map of Sivagangai as a model panchayat.
Mazharkhodi Dhanasekar is a Woman Of Courage because she is dedicated towards her aims and achieving them. She accomplished her dreams of making her panchayat known and she glorified it with her own desire. A good leader can make better individuals and Mazharkhodi is definitely a great leader.
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