Nine years ago, she was shell-shocked to know that she had been infected with HIV.

Her immediate thought was to commit suicide, but the counsel of her relatives and the realisation that she had two children to take care stopped her from taking that step. Her husband, through whom she got the infection, was sinking.

Today, the woman, a resident of a village panchayat in Chinnasalem block of the Villupuram district, is a much-changed person, not just because she is under proper medical treatment at a government hospital in the neighbouring district of Salem, but also as she is the proud owner of a 300-sq-ft house. She is part of the disadvantaged sections of society which are given preference under the Chief Minister’s Solar Powered Green House Scheme.

Belonging to the inaugural batch of beneficiaries of the scheme, she says that the rural housing scheme has brought in freshness into a life which was otherwise depressing. “About one-and-a-half years ago, when I was informed that I had been selected, I was diffident if I could raise enough resources. But, local officials and panchayat leaders assured me that they would provide all support to me,” the mother of the two children recounts.

For the first and second batch of beneficiaries, the unit cost per house was fixed at Rs. 1.8 lakh, which consisted of construction cost of Rs. 1.5 lakh and the cost of solar lighting component for Rs. 30,000.

Even as the spread of the infection has been contained through medication, the Chinnasalem woman, like many others, mopped up Rs. 1.5 lakh by selling the little jewellery she had and by taking loans from private lenders.

She is on her way to settling her dues.Tamizhselvi, a physically-challenged woman in the Thottiyam village panchayat of Villupuram, is another beneficiary of the scheme. She is happy with the progress that she is making in the construction of her house. A mother of two, she has raised Rs. one lakh on her own.

“Unless the authorities release my share, I just cannot proceed,” the Thottiyam woman says. Local officials promise that it is only a matter of days that she will get her due.

Tamizhselvi and the Chinnasalem woman are examples of how the State government’s model of housing scheme is making a lasting impact on the rural poor. These beneficiaries struggle a lot but, at the end of the day, they are happy that they have created a durable asset in the form of a concrete house.

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