S.M. Malaiman Thirumudikari

Sanitation Changemaker

Recognizing Sanitation as a Fundamental Right

Mr. Thirumudikari's journey within the sanitation sector is an inspiring testament to his commitment and visionary leadership in improving the lives of Tamil Nadu's urban population.

Thirumudikari's background in urban development instilled in him a deep passion for ensuring that every individual in Tamil Nadu has access to safe sanitation. His inspiration was drawn from the understanding that sanitation is not a privilege but a fundamental right and a cornerstone of public health.

As Joint Director (Scheme) at the Directorate of Town Panchayats, he envisioned safe sanitation services that would cater to all sections of society. Thirumudikari's leadership catalyzed the adoption of non-networked sanitation systems and a cluster approach, fostering equitable service delivery throughout Tamil Nadu. Memorandums of understanding were signed between Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) to ensure last-mile service delivery, demonstrating his commitment to reaching every community.

The COVID-19 pandemic posed unforeseen challenges, and Thirumudikari rose to the occasion as a Special Officer in the Chengalpattu District. He recognized sanitation and Faecal Sludge Management as essential services, and their standard operating procedures were meticulously established to ensure smooth operations.

With the pandemic's outbreak, Thirumudikari launched targeted healthcare and sanitation-driven communication campaigns, emphasizing the importance of citizen engagement and informed decision-making. A behavioral shift towards hygiene practices was observed, making the sanitation sector's mission more attainable.

The welfare of sanitation workers was at the core of Thirumudikari's leadership during the pandemic. Proactive measures were taken, including providing personal protective equipment (PPE), conducting testing, contact tracing, and isolation, and ensuring that frontline sanitation warriors remained safe in their roles. As the lockdown restrictions continued, Thirumudikari's leadership enabled Tamil Nadu's urban sanitation to adapt and thrive amid adversity. It underscored the importance of inter-departmental coordination, case history management, and grassroots monitoring, ultimately reducing infections and bolstering public health.

Going forward, Tamil Nadu's urban sanitation initiatives have embraced Thirumudikari's vision of being more participatory, localized, multi-disciplinary, and user-focused. Sustainable and scalable solutions are paving the way for safer and more equitable urban sanitation delivery across the state.

Thirumudikari's journey embodies the spirit of transformative leadership, emphasizing the vital role of sanitation in public health. His dedication has not only improved the lives of countless individuals but has also set a path for Tamil Nadu to overcome one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century, making safe sanitation a reality for all.