From spacious houses, they'll now live in 'matchboxes'

Good bye houses, hello cells

From spacious houses, they'll now live in 'matchboxes'

riches to rags: Hanumanthappa with his grandchildren at his house in Shaliganur in Koppal district. He has to leave this big house once construction of new houses, meant for flood victims, is complete. dh Photo

In Siruguppa of Bellary district, a single room measuring 15X17 ft makes up a house. Houses  250 sq ft in area or even less are being constructed for villagers whose  families consist of 15-20 members each, besides cattle.

The floods in October 2009 rendered thousands of families homeless. Following appeals by the government and the media, nearly 52 donors offered to build 73,699 houses. Hachcholli in Siruguppa taluk of Bellary has been identified for total relocation as it is flood-prone. Mining firm V S Lad Sandur is constructing 1,200 houses in this village.

The design of the houses is appalling. A room of 12X15 ft and a toilet-cum-bathroom of 5X4 ft make up a house. It lacks even  a kitchen, leave alone a bedroom. The site engineer claims the area of each house is around 225 sq ft.

The design is still worse in Sridharagadde. A structure measuring hardly 3X4 ft is meant for toilet-cum-bathroom!

Vani, a shopkeeper in Hachcholli, spent Rs four lakh two years ago to raise a two-storey building with space for a grocery shop on the ground floor. The house suffered minor damage during the floods. Because the village has been identified for shifting, she and her family have to move to the new layout. “They will allot me a small house. Where should I set up my shop?” she asked.

The State Government has set guidelines for houses in flood-hit areas. The plinth area should not be less than 250 sq ft. The Rajiv Gandhi Rural Housing Corporation provided five house models. The donors could either select any one of the models or have their own model. If they prepared their own model, they would have to get it approved by the the district administration.

The people in all three districts - Koppal, Bellary and Raichur, are dissatisfied with the size and design.

Rajashekhar, nodal officer for house construction in Raichur district, defends the size of the house.

“For many years we have been constructing Ashraya houses measuring 230 sq ft. The size of these houses is bigger.” He may be right. But all flood victims are not poor to deserve a Ashraya house.

A majority of the people affected by the floods are paddy growers. Because their fields are located close to water bodies they grow paddy and earn better returns, when compared with farmers of non-irrigated lands. Many of them have houses big enough to store crops and shelter cattle. The new houses, meant for rehabilitation, are too small for them. The new houses appear like a luxury only for poor living who lived in thatched huts.

 Hanumanthappa of Shaliganur in Koppal district heads a family of 20 people. His spacious house serves as accommodation for all these people as well as for 30 herd of cattle. The family has to shift to a new layout being developed by Jindal company. For Hanumanthappa’s family, it is a shift from a huge bungalow (from village standards) to a pigeon-hole.

In Koppal, Raichur and Bellary, donors have worked out designs of houses leaving setback varying between 3 ft and 5 ft on all sides. The space is insufficient to extend their houses or to have sheds for cattle.

Mere storerooms

Mata Amrithanandamayi Ashrama has completed construction of 242 houses for the residents of Kuruvakurda and Mangigadda villages in Raichur taluks.

These villages are islands surrounded by the River Krishna. Farm lands in the villages were inundated during the floods. A few houses were damaged due to rains.

The people of the villages are very unhappy with the houses constructed for them.
Thippamma of Kuruvakurda said: “The new houses are not even as big as our storerooms. If the government insists on shifting us, we will use them to store paddy during the rainy season.”

A year after the North Karnataka deluge

Last year’s floods and their aftermath in 14 districts of north Karnataka rendered nearly two lakh people in villages homeless.

The State Government launched Aasare, a programme to provide economy houses to those who lost a roof over their heads, and roped in donors to raise funds.

Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa repeatedly claimed that new houses would be ready before the monsoon sets in. The monsoon is just a few weeks away but the houses are not ready.

Deccan Herald visited some of the badly affected flood-hit areas in three districts - Bellary, Koppal and Raichur, for a reality check. The plight of the affected people is appalling. The ground situation will be presented in a series of reports from Thursday.

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