For 443 Irula tribal families in Kancheepuram district who were given house site pattas recently, it is a dream-come-true. The ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of 172 houses at a cost of ₹8.22 crore held at Malayankulam recently brought further joy to the families that live in abject poverty.
Indira and Ambika, who work in a rice mill near Thirukaveripakkam, thought that they would spend the rest of their lives in the makeshift shed inside the mill. “We work and stay inside the mill, thanks to the largess of the owner. A house of our own would actually be a dream,” said Ms. Indira.
“Since Irula families live in small groups in makeshift houses and mostly inside or along waterbodies, the idea is to create bigger clusters so that they have the requisite numbers for a show of strength. The ultimate aim is to make them politically significant. These 443 families are being accommodated in five locations and we are ensuring that schools, anganwadis and other facilities are located near their habitations,” said District Collector M. Aarthi.
The district administration is chalking out livelihood support programmes with funding from the Department of Tribal Welfare.
“Four societies have been formed for 120 families. Two groups would be involved in making clay bricks, another in raising a herbal garden and the fourth in wood cutting and making of granules from that. We want to make them self-reliant,” Ms. Aarthi said.
R. Saravanan, State general secretary, Tamil Nadu Tribal Association, said the association had members in 15 villages who lived in abject poverty. “Most families lead a hand-to-mouth existence and many do not even have family cards or Aadhar,” he said.
The association had submitted a list of Irulas, who needed pattas and houses to the Collector soon after she took charge. “The district administration has worked really fast. The most recent example was issuance of ID cards and other assistance to 11 families living along a river in Thirupaththikundram. Hopefully, they too will get house sites and houses,” Mr. Saravanan added.