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Cuddalore, Villupuram to shed stigma of highest hutments, thanks to Thane

A.V. Ragunathan
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20,000 concrete houses in Cuddalore and 5,000 in Villupuram ready

One of the houses constructed under the relief package after cyclone Thanein Cuddalore.
One of the houses constructed under the relief package after cyclone Thanein Cuddalore.

Thanks to Cyclone Thane and the subsequent rehabilitation measures taken up by the State government, Cuddalore and Villupuram districts, that bore the brunt, are on the way of shedding the stigma of jointly having the highest number of hutments in the country.

The government has sanctioned a princely sum of Rs. 1,000 crore for construction of one lakh concrete houses — 90,000 for Cuddalore and 10,000 for Villupuram — for the benefit of the cyclone-hit people in both the districts, according to the Collectors R. Kirlosh Kumar and V. Sampath. Of these, about 20,000 units in Cuddalore and 5,000 units in Villupuram have been completed and the remaining units that are at various stages of construction would be ready by June 2014.

Each concrete house is coming up on 200—219 sq ft of land for whose construction the government is giving a grant of Rs. 1 lakh each.

Besides this, the government is also dovetailing funds for the construction of individual toilets at a cost of Rs. 11,100 to be shared as follows: under the Total Sanitation Programme — Rs. 5,700, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme — Rs. 4,500 and the beneficiary contribution — Rs. 900.

Bank loans

For those beneficiaries who are in dire need of financial assistance the district administrations are also arranging for bank loan to the tune of Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 20,000 at a differential interest rate of 4 per cent per annum, without calling for any surety or security.

Through the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) the government is arranging for the supply of 60 bags of cement and 155 kg of steel at controlled prices of Rs. 220 per bag of cement and Rs. 37 for a kg of steel.

The DRDA is also ready to procure wood for doors and windows but many beneficiaries are opting to make use of used wooden items for the purpose. The cost on the supply of construction materials is being deducted from the grant.

On their part, the beneficiaries ought to get sand from the market and on this score they are facing difficulty owing to the closure of sand quarries. Given the rising material costs and wages the beneficiaries have begun to feel the pinch and therefore they are appealing to the government to raise the grant by another Rs. 60,000 per unit.

There are also complaints from certain quarters that some officials are seeking gratification for approving the grant. The official sources told The Hindu that the bills were being cleared on a weekly basis, depending upon the progress of works, so as to enforce better compliance.

It may be noted that the cyclone that mostly ripped through Cuddalore district at a speed of over 140km per hour on December 30, 2011 left vast swathe of destruction. It blew off lakhs of huts, uprooted coconut and cashew trees on thousands of acres of lands and pulled down several lakhs of avenue trees.

Destruction apart, a positive outcome of the cyclone is that Cuddalore district has got 40,000 new electric posts as a replacement for the age-old posts that got twisted and bent by the gale. The beneficiaries include the otherwise nomadic narikuravas who have now got all-weather permanent dwelling units at Panikkankuppam near Panruti.

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