In a shocking instance of official apathy, four tribal families of Manikuni paniya colony on the outskirts of Sulthan Bathery town have taken shelter in toilets after their houses were demolished for constructing new ones with government grant.
The families had demolished their old houses to construct new ones under the Indira Awas Yojana housing scheme around eight months ago, but the contractor allegedly left the project incomplete after pocketing the amount in three instalments.
The Sulthan Bathery block panchayat had sanctioned them an amount of `2.5 lakh each under the scheme after their homes became uninhabitable. Thomas, a native of Kuppady, had taken the contract to build six houses in the colony. While the roofing of two houses was completed, the contractor stopped the work on other two houses after building concrete block walls. Only the foundation work was done for the remaining two houses.
“These toilets are the only buildings here with a roof. So we are forced to stay in them,” said Sankaran, who lives in one of the 30 sq feet toilets with his wife Sudha and three daughters.
According to the Bathery block panchayat president, the village extension officer has been authorised to distribute the funds under the scheme, and the evaluation process will be done by him/her upon completion of a year from the beginning of the construction.
“The work has been assigned by the beneficiaries of the scheme. The block panchayat has no role in it,” he said.
According to the occupants, the roofs of the two new houses have already started leaking.
“If there is no rain we sleep in the open air. Earlier, we also used to sleep on the verandas of other houses in the colony when the construction work had started. But once we realised that the work would not end soon, we had to look for other options,” said Onan, father of Sankaran.
According to him, though the construction had begun eight months ago, the work was carried out only for four or five days. “As I’m ignorant about the procedures to collect the money from the bank, I signed the cheques and gave it to the contractor. I’m not sure how much amount he has collected so far,” said Onan.
When contacted, the Bathery police said that they have not received any complaint in this regard. The toilets were constructed by the Bathery unit of the Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopan Samithi’s youth wing.
The Manikuni paniya colony had hit the headlines last year after cholera deaths were reported from the colony where about 60 tribal families reside.