7 years on, housing project for the landless remains incomplete in Kochi

Towers could offer succour to residents living in deplorable conditions in Fort Kochi

Seven years after it was conceived, a housing project for landless residents living in deplorable conditions in small dwellings in Fort Kochi remains caught in tangles of funding and approval.

Of the two 12-storey towers for the residents of Kalvathy, Thuruthy and Koncheri that were to have sprung up in Fort Kochi by 2016 under the Rajiv Gandhi Awas Yojana (RAY), the construction of one has stalled and approvals for the other have not been obtained.

The construction of the first tower began in 2017, but structural work above the ground floor had stopped abruptly in February this year, said Jaisin Kareem at Sunrise Kochi, a Fort Kochi-based NGO that filed a petition with the Kerala High Court in 2016 questioning the delay in the project’s implementation.

With the capacity of housing 199 families each, the towers could offer succour to some of the 755 beneficiaries identified under RAY.

But having witnessed funds passing them by or being doled out for projects they have seen as frivolous, their hope has waned. “Residents whose houses were listed for upgrade under RAY have also received some benefits, but the towers remain incomplete. We continue to pay exorbitant rents and live with erratic water supply, struggling to make ends meet,” said a resident of Thuruthy. The long period of inaction has led to a weighty cost escalation. The first tower that was to cost a little over ₹17 crore as per the detailed project report drawn up in 2013, would now cost around ₹38 crore at revised rates. “Since the project was time-bound, only a rough estimate was taken initially so that the proposal could be passed. When a detailed estimate was taken, we were short of ₹21 crore for the first tower,” Mayor Soumini Jain said.

The initial estimate did not factor in costs of plumbing, electrification, wastecwater treatment, rainwater harvesting and lifts, the Kochi Corporation said in a counter affidavit submitted to the High Court in July this year.

Cochin Smart Mission Limited (CSML) had, under its slum redevelopment section, agreed to bear the additional cost of ₹21 crore required to complete the first tower, said a source at the mission. But administrative and technical sanction for the new estimates would have to be sought again.

“The revised estimates will have to be approved by the Central government. The estimates, along with reasons for the changes, have been sent to the Centre,” Ms. Jain said.

CSML had agreed to take up construction of the second 12-storey tower as well and proposals to raise it adjacent to the first tower had been handed to the Corporation for approval a few months ago. While the Corporation sat on the proposal, CSML was bound by its project deadline and was required to tender all its projects by December this year, the source said.

While the initial proposal was to complete the construction of the first tower, raze the dwellings of the beneficiaries and build the second tower in place of the old settlement, CSML’s project period would lapse in the meantime. To speed up tower construction, CSML’s new proposal involves constructing the second tower in place of Mehboob Park adjoining the first tower, and reconstruct the park on land from where the residents were rehabilitated, since the Corporation has communicated a lack of availability of land.

As per the Corporation’s affidavit, of the ₹67 crore approved in the DPR, ₹12.23 crore was spent. A total of ₹21.8 crore was amassed with contributions from the State, Centre, Corporation and beneficiaries. After an initial Central government contribution of ₹7 crore, the scheme itself was discontinued in May 2015.

Umar Koya, a resident of Kalvathy who used to work on a fishing boat and whose family has lived in the area for two generations before him, remembers the excitement of the residents of Thuruthy and Kalvathy when the scheme was announced. They submitted their documents and received an identification number that confirmed them as beneficiaries. But he no longer sees much hope and is skeptical about the project bearing fruit years after it was shelved.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 4:37:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/7-years-on-housing-project-for-the-landless-remains-incomplete/article30090841.ece

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