Marachi Subburaman, the founder of Society for Community Organisation and People’s Education (SCOPE), has made Tiruchi proud by becoming the city’s first Padma Shri awardee for social work.
A proponent of eco-friendly sanitation and water conservation, Mr. Subburaman, a Chemistry graduate from Periyar E.V.R College, has been active in social work from the 1970s, when he joined Village Reconstruction Organisation (VRO), an NGO in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, which works towards the construction of cost-effective homes in rural areas.
Being mentored by VRO founder Father Michael Windey, and later, by K.Govindaraju, who heads the Society for Education Village Action and Improvement (SEVAI) in Tiruchi, Mr. Subburaman has been making people understand the value of living in harmony with their environment.
SCOPE was founded in 1986, and since then, has been working on providing toilets and reducing open defecation in rural areas, besides empowering women with income-generation skills.
It has installed more than 20,000 closed system Eco-San flush-less toilets in Tamil Nadu alone, and over one lakh units across 26 states in the country. The bio-waste is recycled as agricultural manure.
“Today, more than ever, we have to save our water resources, because it is the foundation of our life. Whether through rainwater harvesting, efficient irrigation or eco-friendly toilets, the ultimate aim should be to stop ourselves from wasting water,” Mr. Subburaman told ‘The Hindu.
To this end, Mr. Subburaman has converted his residence in Ramalinga Nagar into a working showcase of eco-friendly lifestyle choices. In addition to a rainwater harvesting unit that supplies 2,000 litres of drinking water, the house has a low-tech sanitary napkin incinerator, environmentally sound toilets and a bio-gas plant that reuses wet kitchen waste. Sixteen solar panels supply 1500 watts of energy to power household appliances.
Mr. Subburaman, 71 years, feels honoured to have been chosen for the Padma Shri. “I am from a farmer’s family in Inungur Pudupatti, Karur district, and I was the first graduate in my village. Today, many young men and women have started pursuing higher education in rural areas. I hope they will select courses that will ultimately guide them towards an ethical lifestyle,” he said.