Dilapidated buildings, overcrowded lanes and lack of sanitation have plagued the residents of Rajaji Nagar locality in Thiruvananthapuram for years.

Overflowing sewage collapsing roofs make life living hell for Keralas Rajaji Nagar residents
news Housing Saturday, May 06, 2017 - 12:25

Jessy Bhai has lived in Rajaji Nagar since his birth. On Thursday, a part of the roof of his house came crashing down. Jessy, her husband Suresh Kumar and son Abhijith were away at the time, which averted a tragedy.

“We are all frightened to live here. The buildings which we call our homes are all on the verge of collapse. Also water comes right into the rooms due to leakage when it rains,” says Jessy. 

“It was merely God’s grace that we were not there at the time. I am worried about my son. He is playing around all the time since it is summer vacation,” a concerned Jessy told The News Minute.  

Sprawled across 11 acres and 20 cents, right in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram city and hardly two kilometers away from the Secretariat- the state administrative headquarters, the colony has around 1500 flats. In each flat, there are at least four members and more than family resides in most of the houses. 

Prasanna, another resident of the colony, is pregnant and fears for the safety of her family. “See the roof, there is nothing left in it. There is no cement coating on it. My four-year-old daughter Libina also has to live here. My sister’s husband is sick, he can’t move easily from one place. The roof can fall at any time. What will happen when I deliver my baby. We don’t know what to do,” she said. 

Prasanna’s mother Belsamma is working as a daily wage labourer. Most of the men and women of Rajaji Nagar are daily wage labourers, working as maids, cleaning dishes at hotels or doing similar jobs. Three daughters and two son-in-laws are also living in Prasanna’s house. However, financial constraints have restricted their options and they can’t even contemplate of moving to another place. 

Houses in the area measure around 350 square feet, but the residents are not complaining about the lack of space. “We are not worried about the space, but about the dilapidation, the cracks on walls. My husband is not in good health to work. We are not able to bear the expense of maintenance work,” said Saleena, another resident. 

The residents of Rajaji Nagar used to live in thatched sheds before the government built flats for them. The flats were built in three phases, under three schemes. Ninety flats, which are the ‘new’ ones, were constructed in 2002 under the Union Government’s housing scheme when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. The rest of the houses were built by the State Housing Board and were handed over to the City Corporation, under various governments. 

Jayanthi is another resident and there are six members living in her house, which too has cracks on the walls. She says, “Not only the dilapidation, we fear rain. During rainy season, life is even worse. Septic tanks overflow leading to waterlogging. The overflowing sewage water brings with it germs, which makes life really difficult. There is no proper drainage system.” 

Jayanthi’s mother, 80-year old Thankamma, said that while they continue to suffer, none of the political parties have done anything to improve their lives.

Seventy-eight-year old Johnson had an injury on his forehead a couple of months ago when a portion of the roof of his house fell on him while he was sleeping during daytime. “Life has always been like this for us. It’s miserable owing to dilapidation, roof leakage. During rain, its waterlogging and septic tank overflow,” said Stephen, Johnson’s son. 

“The Corporation has incorporated  housing for Rajaji Nagar residents in two schemes. There is also a master plan for a new housing scheme. We have to see which one is working out first. Maintenance is not possible in the flats, we need to build new ones. The flats were built more than a decade ago, keeping in view the family size and need. Also residents of the colony are not willing to relocate to any other place as their livelihood comes from the nearby areas”, said Jayalakshmi, Corporation ward councillor. 

All photos: Sreekesh Raveendran Nair 

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