A day after TNM reported alleged corruption in building of toilets for a tribal village in Coimbatore district, Kavundampalayam MLA Aarukutty has ordered an inquiry into the matter. The Block Divisional Officer and Panchayat officials were sent to Aalmaramedu to investigate the accusations of corruption and ensure that toilets were built for the village.
On Wednesday, TNM had reported that a state government appointed contractor named Eswaran had failed to build toilets for individual houses after allegedly taking money that villagers received from the Swachh Bharath scheme. But after Rs 12,000 was allegedly collected the contractor claimed that the villagers had kept the amount received for themselves. Villagers had denied this claim and shown proof of the entries in their passbook. Following this MLA Aarukutty had demanded that the contractor come meet him on Thursday.
"He did not turn to meet me and that itself shows that there is some mistake on his part," the MLA tells TNM. "I have sent district officials to investigate the matter. And in the meantime, the contractor has been instructed to build all the toilets within this week," he adds.
The villagers, who are mostly illiterate, had signed bank payee slips that Eswaran gave them close to three months back. They have even dug pits for septic tanks by themselves.
"These are very poor people. And if he has taken their money, I assure you that he will go to jail," says the MLA.
The contractors had partially constructed toilets in 10 houses while no work had even begun in 35 other houses in the settlement.
One of the villagers had asked, "Why would we lie about this? For women, answering nature's call is an everyday struggle. When we try to relieve ourselves in the forests, officers chase us away. Too many houses have come up and we fear for our safety and privacy."
The villagers have not had toilets for over five decades now. But with forest officials not allowing them to enter the areas nearby to relieve themselves, their lives are becoming increasingly difficult.