The dwelling units are built under Chief Minister’s Solar-Powered Green Houses Scheme

A cluster of 13 houses in Vanathirayanpatti village panchayat of the Viralimalai block in Pudukottai district is the odd one out, at least in one respect. Though built under the Chief Minister’s Solar-Powered Green Houses Scheme, these dwelling units are yet to become ‘solar-powered.’

Anjalai, one of the residents, says she has been residing there for over seven months with no sign of a solar system being installed in her house.  

This cluster, which has come up on the government-assigned plots to 11 families of Dalits and two Backward Classes, forms part of the inaugural batch (2011-2012) of the 60,000 houses. The case of Anjalai is not an isolated instance.

In Pudukottai district, there are 1,030 such “solar-powerless” houses out of a total of 2,056 houses. All over the State, there are about 16,400 houses, built under the scheme, without solar home lighting systems.  A majority of such houses without the promised solar power are in northern districts such as Vellore and Villupuram. [However, all these houses have invariably connections of conventional power provided by the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation.]

Though the scheme is essentially implemented by the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department, it is the responsibility of the Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency to have the solar home lighting systems installed in the green houses.  For the year 2011-2012, two vendors – Tata Power Solar and Shandong – were chosen. 

While the former has almost reached its original target, the latter has not been able to achieve it which, according to an official source in Chennai, is due to lack of inverters that the company could get.  But, this was a thing of the past with the re-allocation of a portion of Shandong’s original target to Tata Power Solar.

As on August 4, Tata Power Solar, which was given an additional target of 13,058 houses, covered 25,773 houses totally including 409 from the additional target while Shandong achieved the commissioning of the systems in 17,843 houses, representing 83 per cent coverage. The official source adds that the plan is to cover the left-out houses in a month.

The non-availability of solar home lighting systems alone is not an issue with the Vanathirayanpatti cluster of houses.  

Anjalai’s neighbour Ponnammal complains of not having received steel of 300 kg that should have been supplied by the authorities at the time of construction. Anjalai too has a similar complaint to make. 

A day after this correspondent visited the cluster on Friday came information from officials in Pudukottai that Ponnammal was given a cheque for Rs. 15,300, which was equivalent to the quantity of steel that should have been provided to beneficiaries of the green houses scheme.

When asked why one beneficiary alone was reimbursed, a Pudukottai official responded that a survey would be undertaken to identify such cases and they would be compensated.      

When asked why beneficiaries in parts of the Viralaimalai, Ponnamaravathy and Thirumayam blocks, visited by this correspondent, were generally not reimbursed through banks, one of the officials replied that there was no such stipulation in the scheme. After being pointed out that beneficiaries of the scheme in Villupuram and Tirunelveli districts had received payment through bank transfer, another official was quick enough to correct his colleague by saying that in future, the payment through bank transfer would be made in the case of all beneficiaries.  

Likewise, staircases, despite not finding place in the government-approved type design of houses, were allowed in several places of Pudukottai district.  To this, the reply from the officials was that it was on the demand of beneficiaries that staircases were allowed.  Besides, this would make sense as solar panels had to be kept on roof top of the houses.    

The beneficiaries including Anjalai and Ponnammal also demand that better arrangement for water supply be put in place.

There are no pucca roads in the cluster. And, Ponnamal says that “I have not yet received wet grinder, mixer and table fan [which are given as part of another scheme of the government to rice-drawing family card holders].”

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