How a rural youth saved thousands of lives

S Vijay, the 17-year-old son of a Dharmapuri farmer, saved 15,000 people in his native village of Pikkili, and 17 other villages in the panchayat of the same name, in Dharmapuri district, from drinking toxic water. Vijay works for a firm that distributes water from a sump in Melkottai village to 18 villages in the panchayat. “I wasn’t well on the morning of November 9, so my mother helped me get to the sump because I had to close the valve,” Vijay says. “The smell was obnoxious near the sump.” A laboratory confirmed that a highly toxic rodenticide had been mixed in the water. Losing no time, Vijay alerted the pump operator in Thirumalvadi village, asking him to stop distribution of water from the overhead tanks that received water from the sump. He also informed Pikkili panchayat president Vasuki Ayyappan about the alarming discovery by calling her husband, C Ayyappan. The 2 lakh litre sump, which receives water under the Hogennakkal Water Supply and Fluorosis Mitigation Project, supplies water to 11 overhead tanks for distribution to 18 villages. The warning came just in time: The tank operators were to start distribution to street pumps in just an hour. The panchayat resumed water supply only after the sump and overhead tanks were thoroughly cleaned. The panchayat has lodged a complaint with the Papparapatti police, seeking action against the culprits who poisoned the water. Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa honoured Vijay with a cash award of Rs 1 lakh.

Source: Vishwa Samvad Kendra