These ‘homeless’ folks continue to wait even today even after two and a half years since the funds were released

Kochi slum rehabilitation project announced in 2013 foundation stone yet to be laidPhotos : The News Minute
news Kochi Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 12:53

It was in mid-2013 that the Union government sanctioned Rs 67.32 crores to make Kochi a slum-free city. Slums per se are not a common sight in Kerala, but Kochi has around 250 small slums, as per the data from the Corporation.

Central funds for the project were released under the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) scheme in early 2014 and handed over to the local administration for the rehabilitation of slum dwellers at Kalvathy, Thuruthy and Koncheri areas in Fort Kochi.

But these ‘homeless’ folks  continue to wait even today even after two and a half years since the funds were released. The site identified for the said project is being used as a playground by local children. Not even a foundation stone has been laid till date.

A lane in Thuruthy

As per the proposed project plan, a total of 755 families residing in the three identified slum areas would benefit from the scheme. The first phase of project was planned as a double-storey building for six families, flats for 398 families, and the renovation of houses of 88 families.

“During the last assembly election campaign, the previous UDF government had allotted some funds for renovation to some of the families. But that was done primarily with an eye on the elections,” says Zakeenath -one of the residents of the Thuruthy slum- while speaking to The News Minute.

“The majority of families who live here have no house of their own. They are forced to shell out exorbitant rents for even a tiny room or two they call home. Almost all of them are listed in the RAY scheme. What makes the whole thing a farce is that the flat numbers have already been allotted to them, even before the foundation stone for the project has been laid!,” she remarks.

These slum areas fall under the Kalvathy ward of the Cochin Municipal Corporation. Zeenath Mustafa -the area ward member- attributes the delay in the use of funds for the same to some unforeseen technicalities that have cropped up along the way.

“The Corporation is in possession of the funds released by the Centre. Work will soon begin. The delay was due to technical reasons. What with elections and some issues with the tenders etc…” she explains.

According to the Kochi Mayor, the work has already begun.

“We have already started the work. Renovation of the houses too was a part of the RAY project. We will soon begin the construction of the flats. Funds have not been misused in any way,” Kochi Mayor Soumini Jain reiterates.

But the authorities were not able to come up with a convincing explanation as to why the funds were not utilized all this while.

A lane from Kalvathy

Most of the residents of these slums are daily wage earners and fishmongers. They eke out a shabby existence on the banks of a drainage canal in extremely unhygienic conditions.

“Malaria, dengue, diarrhea and viral fever are very common here. A huge amount has been released for our rehabilitation and we still continue to stay here,” rues Sheeba, a resident of the Kalvathy slum.

A Corporation official when contacted -on conditions of anonymity- termed the proposal to build flats as impractical due to increased maintenance expenditure and several other technical issues.

“Instead of trying to build flats, it is always better to distribute the allotted money to the families and let them build a house of their own. As per the proposal, each apartment in the building would be around 300 square feet, a size that would prove too congested for a family,” the official opined.

The site to build flats under RAY project

The supposed beneficiaries are however worried that the funds could lapse before they enjoy its benefits. When asked whether there was a time-frame specified for the completion of the project by the Centre, Corporation officials doggedly refused to either confirm or deny the same.

“If they are unable to build new apartments or flats for us, they can at least distribute the money to us so that we ourselves could find a better place to stay,” feels Thoufeeq Rahman, a resident of Koncheri.



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