Rs 11.24 crore spent on sanitary napkin incinerators but do they work? No, say helpless girl students of Tamil Nadu

The technicians staged a demonstration for the girl students on the usage of incinerators during the installation
Representative image | Pic: Wikimedia Commons
Representative image | Pic: Wikimedia Commons

Non-functioning incinerators in most of the government schools across Tamil Nadu have left the girl students in the lurch. The state government had supplied 4,161 incinerators worth Rs 11.24 crore to 3,334 schools in 2018 for burning the sanitary napkins. "Of the 1,670 girl students of my school, at least 1,100 students are in need of incinerators during menstruation. However, only one incinerator was installed in our toilet two years ago and that too became unusable soon after the installation. Without an awareness, some students throw away the napkins in the toilet and others have to uncomfortably wait till the school time is over to rush home for disposing the napkins," said Puvana (name changed), a Class XII student of Manjammal Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Tenkasi.

When contacted by TNIE, the headmistress of this school Anbumani said that her administration had brought a faulty incinerator back functional. "Our school was given three incinerators, in which each one was installed in the student and staff toilets respectively. The third one remains unopened. We have called the technicians to install the third machine and repair the problematic one," she added. "Not only in Tenkasi but also the school administrations in Tirunelveli, Sivaganga and Pudukottai districts where I had worked earlier have not even taken the incinerator out of thier boxes citing unavailability of suitable power socket as the reason," said an official of School Education Department requesting anonymity.

The Kallanai Corporation Girls Higher Secondary School is the largest girls' school in Tirunelveli district with more than 5,000 girl students. When the Durai Murugan-led Public Accounts Committee (PAC) visited this school on December 19, 2018, the PAC came down heavily on the corporation authorities and teachers for keeping none of the incinerators functional. The then Corporation Commissioner (in-charge) Narayana Nayar promised Murugan that the incinerators would be repaired in two days. However, the same situation prevails still. The students of this school told TNIE that all the incinerators in their school are faulty. "We have four incinerators in our main building alone. We face technical issues in the incinerators again and again. We will repair them shortly," said the headmistress of Kallanai school Nachiyar. 

TNIE spoke to the students of various government schools in Alangulam, Puliyangudi, Kadayanallur and Sankarankovil and received a negative reply in terms of functioning incinerators. "The technicians staged a demonstration for the girl students on the usage of incinerators during the installation. The machines were installed in such a way that even the shortest students of the school can use them. Everything was okay in the beginning. However, some poor-quality machines stopped functioning gradually. The technicians were not available on time. The issue on who should dispose of the napkin ashes in incinerators raised between sweeper and other staff," said a Tenkasi district-based headmistress, requesting anonymity.

Speaking to TNIE, Subhashini, Chief Educational Officer (CEO), Tirunelveli said that her administration was collecting information about the condition of the incinerators in government schools of all blocks. "We will also demand more machines to the schools where there is a requirement," she added. Tenkasi CEO Kabeer said that the school administrations did not bring the faulty incinerators to his notice. Kakarla Usha, Principal Secretary, School Education Department is not available over phone to comment. The School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi said that his administration would rectify all the functioning issues of the existing incinerators and would purchase more for the government schools. "Our party mentioned this in our election manifesto. We will purchase high-quality incinerators with the correct price," he added.

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