CHENNAI: Sabu M Jacob, the chairman and managing director of Kitex Garments speaks to CE about the ‘Twenty20 Kizhakkambalam’ project, under which ‘God’s Villa’ was constructed. The project was launched in May 2013 with the aim to turn Kizhakkambalam into India’s first model village — the smartest and the best-governed village.
Where did this idea take root to transform the village?
The idea came from my father who firmly believed that it was very important for the locality to grow along with the business. This is our village and the people here should benefit from our business. My father used to often cite Mumbai as an example where one can see two ends of the economic spectrum. He believed that there is no point in having a big business if the people around are living in tarpaulin and with no food.
What is the Twenty20 Kizhakkambalam initiative?
After my father passed away in 2011, we first focussed on drinking water and sanitation but it was only when we started work that we realised the severity of the issues in the area. This changed our entire vision and made us look at sustainable growth and development for all. That is why this project was launched with the long-term objective to make Kizhakkambalam a model village by the year 2020 — a model of sustainable development which can be replicated anywhere in India and the world.
What are the initiatives being taken up for housing?
As part of the numerous welfare activities, Twenty20 Kizhakkambalam has completed 300 houses for the poor and renovated 800 houses with modern amenities.
Why was housing chosen as a focus area for the project?
We are not just constructing houses but changing attitudes and transforming lives.
The same principle that I implemented in my business, I used here as well — discipline. Now, people in Kizhakkambalam look down upon those who behave inappropriately. We are promoting self-reliance, and residents to take ownership because leadership is what makes changes.
What does the project take care of, in addition to construction of the houses?
Each contemporary-looking 750-sq-ft independent house has a kitchen, European toilet, sink, light and water. The houses have been constructed in four cents and comprise two bedrooms, a hall, and kitchen with car parking facility.
Twenty20 also provides accessories like fan, fancy lights, furniture, dining tables, mixer/grinder, beds, TV, and sofa sets worth `2 lakh at 50 per cent of the cost. Water connections are provided to each house with a storage tank of 1,000 litres. A 25,000-litre common water tank, two wells and a borewell have been constructed to make sure uninterrupted water supply for the colony.
All these houses are built as per vaastu shastra and have a strong foundation that supports two-storeyed constructions. To protect the privacy of the families living in them, each house has a compound wall and gate, in addition to the common compound wall of the colony.
The colony has paved roads that lead to each house and common amenity space for social gatherings. Bitumen Macadam and Bitumen Concrete (BMBC) standard roads are constructed to provide access to highways.
Earlier, the colony was labelled unsafe owing to the crime rate. Has that changed?
Colonies make criminals. When children grow up in an environment where they are exposed to anti-social activities, it is natural for them to gravitate towards that kind of lifestyle. That is why we felt the need to clean out the place and give them a conducive environment to learn and grow.
The crime rate has reduced by almost 80%. We even changed the address to ‘God’s Villa’ in a bid to rid the people of the stigma attached to being residents of the Laksham Veedu colony. We gave it a modern, western name and feel to add to their confidence and worked towards improving their lifestyle. It has become a much safer place thanks to the initiative.
What are some of the upcoming projects?
One of the other big projects that we are laying a lot of emphasis on is the revamping of five government schools and completely changing the anganwadis.
They currently look like tea shops and it is unfortunate that these children are learning their first letters in that kind of environment. We are looking at building anganwadis that are like the schools you see in European countries with the best of facilities. Apart from this, we are continuing with a number of other community welfare projects.