All her life, Pushpavathy Jayaraman had been living in a thatched house. Be it at Vengaivaasal, where she was born, or for a brief while at Ayanavaram in the city after her marriage, she had been living only in thatched houses.

In a couple of weeks, she would be moving into a ‘pucca' house, thanks to a scheme of the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department of the State government. It is constructing the house, absolutely free of cost for Pushapavathy and 55 others in St.Thomas Mount Panchayat Union in the southern suburbs of Chennai.

The 56 families would be beneficiaries in the first phase of the Solar Powered Green Houses Project ‘Pasumai Veedugal Thittam' launched last year. Unlettered, Pushpavathy could not recall her age and suggested that she might be 65. “Like my parents, I herded cattle in Vengaivaasal. After marriage, I shifted to Ayanavaram, where too like in Vengaivaasal, I lived in a hut. I returned to my mother's house in Vengaivaasal with my four daughters after my husband died, within 10 years after my marriage,” Ms. Pushpavathy recalled.

Under the scheme, houses on a piece of land measuring 300 square feet are constructed for people living below the poverty line. A sum of Rs.1.8 lakh was sanctioned, including Rs.30,000 for provision of five Compact Fluorescent Lamps powered by solar panels. Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency was the implementing agency for the solar powered lighting component, officials at the Panchayat Union (St. Thomas Mount Block) told The Hindu.

The houses would have a living room, a kitchen, a bedroom, toilet and a verandah and each of them would have a lamp. The house would also be complete with a rainwater harvesting system. Further, the construction materials used were pre-fabricated panels that would be strong enough to withstand natural disasters. Officials also added that if the beneficiaries wished to instal additional equipment they were free to do so and could also get power supply connections.

Following the merger of 10 village panchayats with the Chennai Corporation, there were only 15 village panchayats in St. Thomas Mount Block. A total of 56 houses would be constructed during the current financial year in the 15 village panchayats. Of 56 beneficiaries, 25 belonged to Scheduled Caste and 2 to Scheduled Tribe.

One important criterion for eligibility for this project is that the beneficiary should have a ‘patta' (land ownership document) in his or her name. So far, they had not rejected any applications from the beneficiaries for want of pattas, but expected problems to crop when they would expand the project in the years to come. As now, a couple of houses are construction in Vengaivaasal Village Panchayat and work on the rest of the locations would commence soon, officials added.

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