7 yrs on, Kerala’s Saphalyam housing project for the homeless stuck in limbo

The project was introduced by the UDF government in 2013.
Saphalyam housing project
Saphalyam housing project
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A housing project in Kerala that was meant to get houses for the homeless with the help of housing board department, has turned out to be a failure with lakhs already spent. Even seven years after the inauguration of the Saphalyam housing project, the houses are not ready to live as the works stopped years ago.

Saphalyam housing project was introduced in 2013. As per the scheme, housing board was supposed to construct flats, with a contribution from the government, voluntary organisation, a loan from Housing and Urban Development Corporation Ltd (HUDCO) and by collecting an amount from the beneficiary. A total of 1008 flats were to be constructed in 10 villages of seven districts as per the initial plan announced by then Finance Minister K M Mani of United Democratic Front (UDF) government. Each apartment was estimated to cost around Rs 2.5 lakh. Out of this, Rs 50000 was to be paid by the beneficiary at the beginning and Rs one lakh in instalments. Another Rs one lakh was to be given by the government.

However, in many places, the construction has been halted for several years due to various issues and the money spent wasted.

In Kozhikode's Chelannur panchayat, construction of a flat consisting of three blocks with more than 70 apartments had started around six years ago. But the construction was stopped within a year and almost Rs 65 lakh was spent to build the structure. But no further works were done as there was no availability of water in the area.

"That was an area with severe water scarcity. There is no water in open wells. We brought staff from groundwater departments and they also claimed that water will not be available. Water authority connection to that area was also not possible due to technical reasons. We tried to lay pipes from a nearby river but the neighbours were objecting to it since it passes through their land," Leela, the Chirakuzhi ward member told TNM.

A total of 66 families had applied for a house in Chelannur.

Moreover, she said that the apartments are so tiny that a family cannot live inside them. "There is just one room, kitchen and a bathroom, only one or two persons can live in them. The construction is so poor that even the septic tanks were not not properly installed for the 66 families," she alleged. However, according to the locals, there is water connection in neighbouring areas and it will be easy for the panchayat to get a connection.

Twenty-eight beneficiaries had paid Rs 50000 as their share for the house. But since the works stopped, they took the money back from the panchayat. "To make them liveable, the panchayat will have to spend a lot of money again. Just the structure is there. We don't have that much money," she added.

The building is now covered with weeds. Locals complain that the building has turned into a den for drinking and consumption of drugs.

The situation is similar in Lakkidiperur panchayat. The flats built for 24 families there are also partially constructed and abandoned. There are also allegations that many of the families who gave Rs 60000 as first instalment for the house haven't yet got the money back.

"There was a lack of funding in the project. Meanwhile, the Ministry changed and panchayat leadership also changed. The present government was not very interested in following up on the previous government’s projects. Lakhs were spent on it and now it is abandoned. It has turned into a jungle now, we can't even enter that area," Sreevalsan, panchayat president of Lakkidiperur, told TNM.


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