Irulars’ houses giving in to rains

Every time there is a shower, R Sandha, a Irular tribal woman (40), places buckets to catch the dripping rainwater from the ceiling. It’s not that she does it out of choice.

Published: 10th November 2021 06:49 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th November 2021 06:49 AM   |  A+A-

A tribal woman with her child standing in front of her half-constructed house at Thizukuzangundram in Chengalpet district | DEBADATTA MALLICK

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Every time there is a shower, R Sandha, a Irular tribal woman (40), places buckets to catch the dripping rainwater from the ceiling. It’s not that she does it out of choice. This is the only way known to her to save her 269 square-foot house from flooding. But, this time, the buckets fell short in number. 

Although built with bricks, Sandha’s house lacks a concrete ceiling. She built it using hay and straws, but that failed to withstand the heavy downpour. In her hamlet at Kudiperumbakkam in Thizhukuzhankundram Taluk of Chengalpet district, the story is the same for 19 other families.

Shoddy implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), a Union government scheme to build houses for the economically-weaker sections, has left the tribal families in this hamlet in deep water. The houses were built and handed over to them in 2016-2017. But, the officials claimed construction could not be completed due to the pandemic.  

When TNIE visited this village, there were only 12 houses built for the 19 families living there. Of the 12 houses, only four houses, built in 2016, had concrete ceilings. Nevertheless, water was dripping from the ceiling of those houses, indicating poor quality of raw materials. All the houses lacked doors and windows and the tribals had to cover up the space to protect their privacy. None of the houses was painted too. While two other houses had no concrete ceiling, the remaining houses were half-constructed.  

Despite a good scheme being in place, due to its shoddy implementation, the tribals continued to suffer. This raised questions as to how the Rs 1.7 lakh, allocated for the project, was spent. According to the residents, the total cost, including that of bricks, cement, and labour, might not have been over Rs 50,000. “They have come to our doorsteps to implement the housing scheme but it looks as if they only wanted to do it to show records,” said Poongodi, another resident.

While the PMAY mandates the construction of toilets with the houses to mark the project ‘completed’, it wasn’t the case here. There were only two unused toilets in the entire hamlet, forcing the tribals to defecate in the open. 

When TNIE verified how houses were built under PMAY in other places, the results showed a different picture. As per the PMAY website, a house at Kurunthancode Panchayat in Kanyakumari was well-painted, has wooden windows with glass cover, and a wooden door. Another house at Painkulam village panchayat in Kerala has a proper ceiling, a wooden window with grills, and wooden doors. This indicates how the PMAY funds have been poorly utilised in the Kudiperumbakkam village. 

Officials from the panchayat told TNIE they could not complte the project due to Covid-19. “The half-constructed houses will be completed once the pandemic is over. The houses will be painted too,” they added.


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