Govt fails Kodagu families, not a single house ready

Piles of delay: One of the largest sites allocated for construction of new houses at Jambooru. The land, spread across 50 acres, is being levelled but construction work is yet to commence.DH Photo/Ambarish B

When Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy laid the foundation stone for the construction of 840 houses in Kodagu on December 7, Housing Minister U T Khader and officials said 55 houses will be built in one month.

As on January 9, not a single house has been constructed in any of the five places identified for rehabilitating families displaced by last year’s floods. The district administration had identified 95.06 acres of land at Karnangeri, Made, Sampaje, Kushalnagar and Jambooru.

While work is yet to begin in Sampaje, excavation work for laying the foundation is on at Jambooru and Made, where around 400-500 houses will be built. Only at Karnangeri near Madikeri has the construction work progressed beyond the foundation stage.

The state government issued a notification entrusting the work of constructing 840 houses with Rajiv Gandhi Rural Housing Corporation Ltd on November 27, 2018. The notification also extended the exemption under Rule 4(g) of Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurement (KTPP) Act. “Each house will be constructed at a cost of Rs 9.85 lakh. Rajiv Gandhi Rural Housing Corporation Ltd will complete the work through the Karnataka State Habitat Centre. An order has also specified that it is the responsibility of the Housing Department to ensure the quality of work,” an official said.

Another official told DH that work will be completed at the earliest. “Once the outline is fixed, other work can continue even after the monsoon sets in.”

We are hopeful that the outline of all the houses will be completed by May, before the monsoon sets in. The finishing work like putting up slabs and interiors may take some time,” he said. The government has decided to allot two-bedroom houses for the 840 families who lost their homes in the floods.

But Virajpet MLA from the BJP, K G Bopaiah, said that the state government refused outside help.

“We knew that it would be difficult to construct houses before the monsoon sets in. Work is going on very slowly and they may not be able to complete it on time. In November, organisations like Infosys foundation, one of the Ashta Mutts of Udupi and an NGO, Seva Bharathi of the RSS, had come forward, offering help in constructing houses. These organisations were also ready to execute the construction work based on the model prescribed by the government, yet it was not approved,” Bopaiah said.

The delay will cause an additional financial burden as the government has promised Rs 10,000 to each of the 840 families every month till the houses are completed.

District in-charge minister Sa Ra Mahesh, who holds the tourism portfolio, conceded that the delay would mean additional expenditure.

“It is true that at some places construction work is slow. I have requested the housing minister to deploy more workers. We are committed to completing the work before the monsoon sets in. However, if it is not done we will have to open relief camps in advance. I am told that the foundation work takes a lot of time and after that, the pace will pick up,” Mahesh said.

Interestingly, according to Bopaiah, several families have requested the district administration to help them construct a house on their own land.

“The deputy commissioner has issued a blanket ban on land conversions. I agree with it over large tracts of land. But if a middle class or upper-middle-class family wants to build a house on their own land, it is not possible until the land is converted for non-agricultural purposes. I had raised this issue at the Belagavi Assembly session,” Bopaiah added.

According to the officials, of the 840 families, 92 are from SCs, 88 from the STs, while 660 belong to other categories.

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