Buying a home to call your own is tough in Tirupur

THE SOLUTION? While the middle class cannot think of independent bungalow-type houses that begin at Rs. 20 lakhs, the economically weaker continue to shell out a rent of more than Rs. 1,000 a month for `line' type houses in Tirupur.  

TIRUPUR - an internationally acclaimed town - is synonymous with exports-driven growth in the country. But the matter does not end here. It is synonymous with dearth of infrastructure too, particularly in housing and transport facilities.

It does not mean that the construction industry is doing badly. It is witnessing a boom, with the spectacular growth of knitwear industry - the lifeline of Tirupur.

Huge factory buildings on the outskirts of Tirupur - even at 20 km - 30 km radius - are fast becoming landmarks. Gigantic housing complexes are coming up fast on all roads leading to the town. But all are meant for the upper and the upper middle classes. The price of independent bungalow-type houses - the most sought after - starts at Rs. 20 lakhs.

The working masses - tailors, helpers, supervisors, checkers, (vast majority of them migrant labourers) are the worst hit. Most of them neither own a house nor are in a position to have a good rented house. Both are expensive.

The poor stay in what is called `line' houses that offer only one room - kitchen, living and bedroom - on a 120 to 160 sq.ft area and a common toilet for a monthly rent of Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 1,250. On the banks of the Noyyal and in the periphery, one could see these types of houses, at least ten to 12 portions under a roof, for rent. For middle and salaried class, the problem is different. In the congested town, they hardly can find decent houses with adequate facilities at a reasonable rent. Rent for a decent double bed room house is at least Rs. 5,000 and goes up to Rs. 8,000.

Owing to high cost of living, many middle-level employees and staff of various agencies commute from Coimbatore to Tirupur every day.

With the burgeoning industrial growth, more than three lakh workers are residing in Tirupur. Industry sources say another one lakh workers will be required this year. Does Tirupur have the housing infrastructure to accommodate them? The answer is a definite `No'.

Buying a home to call your own is tough in Tirupur

"The hosiery industry has been facing severe shortage of labour for the last three to four years. We offer good wages to even unskilled and semi-skilled workers. But the problem persists. A section of migrant workers do not want to return to work once they went to their native for festivals. The main problem is not the wages but the facilities - especially housing, good schools and entertainment," points out R. Rajkumar of Best International, a leading export house.

There is increasing need for low-cost and budget-class houses in Tirupur and on the outskirts. One of the leading promoters E. Thiyagarajan of KRC Constructions says the exorbitant land price in the town limits does not permit builders to construct houses at low costs. Those who want to have a house between Rs. 7 lakhs and Rs. 8 lakhs, are not ready to move out of town limits, given the petrol charges and other expenses. The president of the Tirupur Exporters' Association A. Sakthivel emphasises the need for at least 10,000 more houses for hosiery workers. "The industry is poised to provide more jobs year after year."

To facilitate the growth, the Government should come forward to construct houses for workers on the periphery through the Tamil Nadu Housing Board and it will be a meaningful investment, he asserts.

"People want such apartments well within the town. It is not economically viable for a promoter, mainly because of the land price," says Mr. Thiyagarajan. The land cost near the Municipality, or in Avanashi, Perumanallur, Kangeyam Road, Kongu Nagar, Rayapuram or Bungalow Stop is quoted between Rs. 3 lakhs and Rs. 20 lakhs a cent. Further, availability of land is also a problem.

The Viswabarathi Housing Limited - catering to the upper middle class and the upper class - plans to construct 200 `budget flats' for the middle class at Lakshmi Nagar on Palladam Road in January. The price would be around Rs. 15 lakhs. "It is aimed at the salaried class whose monthly income is around Rs. 10,000. We target teachers, company staff (not the worker category), bank employees and rental investors. We hope there is a great potential for this," says its project manager, P. Raviselvan.

Houses at low costs - on a massive scale at that - is the urgent need of Tirupur as far as infrastructure is concerned. However, no concrete step has emerged yet. In the absence of working women's hostels, the condition of poor women coming from far off is pathetic.