One-storied concrete houses painted in white are neatly lined up one after the other in a plot of four cents. For people outside Kizhakkambalam panchayat of Ernakulam district, the transformation of the Njarallur Colony – that once had run-down houses – would come as a surprise.
Njarallur Colony was one of the sites at which the government had built houses for underprivileged families under its 'Laksham Veedu' project in the 1970s. At several places in the state, such colonies are known by the name 'laksham veedu colony.'
Now, the Kizhakkambalam gram panchayat is in the process of rebuilding these old, run-down houses to provide the families with better ones. In the next two months, close to 42 houses in Njarallur Colony will be ready to be handed over to the families, the panchayat president Jacob told TNM.
“We started rebuilding the houses in April last year. By January, all the houses in Njarallur Colony will be ready for inauguration,” he says.
Kizhakkambalam is arguably the first and the only gram panchayat in the country that has a non-political body in power. Twenty20, the CSR wing of the clothes giant Anna-Kitex, came to power in the 2015 panchayat election, creating a stir in political circles.
Rebuilding the laksham veedu colonies in the panchayat had been one of Twenty20’s election promises. There are three more laksham veedu colonies in the panchayat – Velangu, Kanamburam and Makkenikkara. A total of 72 families reside in these colonies, says Jacob.
“The construction works at the other three colonies have started and will be completed in another year or so. This initiative is in line with our aim of making Kizhakkambalam a model village in the state,” Jacob explains.
The 710 sq ft houses are being built at the cost of Rs 12.5 lakh each. While the panchayat grants Rs 2 lakh towards construction costs, the rest of the money is pooled in by Twenty20, Jacob says.
Kizhakkambalam panchayat had always been a United Democratic Front (UDF) bastion, until Twenty20 claimed power in 2015. In the panchayat polls in November 2015, Twenty20 won 17 of the 19 seats.
The body came into being and decided to test the political waters after it was alleged that the village’s development had hit a roadblock owing to corruption. Twenty20 was launched as an alternate forum that marketed itself by promising development for the village.
Panchayat President Jacob argues that with a non-political forum at power, more groundwork has been completed to achieve the poll promises.