MADURAI: Residents of the Narikuravar colony in Sakkimangalam panchayat are in a constant fear of the roof above their heads collapsing anytime. Enter their houses and you would find ceilings broken and peeled off, iron rods dangerously exposed, and walls developing cracks. During rainy seasons, the situation is worse; many houses have even collapsed in the past.
In 1991, under the Indira Gandhi Awas Yojana scheme, about 96 houses were built in the colony. It houses about 750 Narikuravar families, who make a living by selling decorative beads and handmade ornaments. Lack of maintenance or repair works of the buildings since their construction three decades ago, has left them in a bad shape, forcing residents to live in makeshift tents or under trees. Despite numerous petitions submitted to the officials concerned, no action has been taken so far, they rued.
"It was in 1991 that we first got a permanent place to live and call a house for ourselves. Before that we were living in makeshift tents," recalled Jai Ganesh, an activist and a resident of the colony. "Two decades later, the houses started getting damaged and soon turned unlivable," he added.
Raja (70), a longtime resident, said, "At first we thought the cracks on the walls and damages in the ceiling were minor, but in the course of the years, it became severe that even with the passing of a heavy vehicle on a nearby road, the houses would collapse. Considering our safety, we began to live under the trees, while leaving our belongings inside." He requested the government to reconstruct the houses."
Talking about the financial struggles, Mullangi, another resident, said, "We earn a minimum of `100 to `200 per day by selling beads and ornaments. Whenever there is repair work, we have to spend at least `2,000. The houses have become too weak, that something or the other gets damaged every month. As we could not bear the recurring expenses, we have moved to the streets."
Speaking to TNIE, V Ramachandran, a social activist from Madurai said, "Out of the 96 houses, over 38 have collapsed; the rest are in a precarious state. Officials have not taken action citing a dearth of funds. When M Karunanidhi was the chief minister, an order was passed to reconstruct all houses in Melavasal and SMP Colony, which are more than 30 years old. A similar step should be taken by Chief Minister M K Stalin considering the welfare of Narikuravars community."
The residents have also been submitting representations for relaying damaged roads in the area. Several residents of the colony also requested a primary school in the village, as children now have to walk nearly two to five kilometres to school every day.
Speaking to TNIE, Collector S Aneesh Sekhar said, "The scheme under which the houses were built does not cover maintenance expenses, However, under other available schemes, steps will be taken to salvage the existing houses. For people, whose houses have been damaged completely, new houses will be provided. Their other demands too will be considered."