The value of owning a house is felt when you do not have one, says Adilakshmi, who was allotted land at Kuttiyar Valley near here on Friday. Adilakshmi and her family of seven members are living at the temple lane, paying a rent of Rs 50 per month. She said that her family had been living in rented house or lane since her marriage 30 years back. Her husband who had worked as salesman in different shops here is no longer an employee due to his old age. Adilaksmi woks as labourer and does odd jobs at houses to make ends meet. She says that they never had an income to own a house or land and the five-cent house plot allotted at Kuttiyar Valley is her long dream realised.

Santha, another woman who also came to the pattaya mela to receive the title deed, said that she had been a traditional tea estate labourer and is living in an estate lane. The estate lanes are provided to the labourer till he enjoys the benefit of employing with the company which owns the estate. At least one member of the family should be a company worker and it is traditionally handed over to the next generation. When a family stops employing with the company, it has to automatically vacate the house — a reason why a large number of estate workers who do not own a house live in. Since a crisis hit the tea sector, many were rendered jobless and the entire family lives on the income earned by one or two members in a family who undertake odd jobs.

Like Adilaksmi and Santha, Subbalaksmi also received title deeds of the house plot allotted at Kuttiyar Valley. She has been living in a lane.

Most of the people who were selected to get house plots were traditional estate workers who migrated to Munnar mostly from Tamil Nadu.

Getting a job at the estate was once considered a status symbol and a traditional right of labourers, says Subbalaksmi and adds that this was one reason why the children of the estate labourers less preferred to continue their education and move out of the vicious circle of estate labour.

By allotting housing plot at Kuttiyar Valley for 2,300 people, a township is slowly developed where the young generation feels it is free to seek better jobs outside the sector. Educational institutions, health care facilities, market and other infrastructure development will take place at Kuttiyar Valley to those who had traditionally lived in Munnar but never belonged to it.

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