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Fifty Families in Maharashtra Have no Houses, Just Toilets

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana promises houses for all by 2019 in Maharashtra. This is a cruel joke for 50 families living out of tents for the past thirty years in Risod.

Sunita Bai has recently give birth to twins. Far from being a  joyful occasion, worry about their safety is keeping her up at night. Sunita and 50 other families from the Sikalkar community are forced to live under open skies in Risod, Maharashtra. A traditional community of carpenters, these 50 families have been living in the Risod town for the past thirty years  in makeshift tents made out of plastic sheets.

“We eat only if we earn money or go to bed hungry. There’s no house or household items. It’s a hand to mouth existence,” laments Nathurao Rathod, Sunita’s neighbour. The Sikalkar community fashion cheap wooden items from furniture to kitchen utensils earning between fifty and hundred rupees per day. Despite appealing to the local authorities repeatedly, they don't have adequate shelters.

The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) was launched in 2015 with a promise to build affordable, concrete homes with electricity and water for economically weaker households starting with households whose annual incomes do not exceed 300,000 rupees. The PMAY has an ambitious target of housing for all by 2022. The state of Maharashtra has gone one step further in promising ‘houses for all’ by 2019.  But these remain empty promises for people like Sunita and her neighbours. “Our tents were flooded with rainwater. We appealed to the authorities but no one even came to inspect as the water kept rising. We said build us a drain even if you don’t give us houses. Now, if they didn’t build a drain, will they build houses for us?” says an angry Jagan Chauhan, another person from the community.

The irony is that the fifty families now have fifty toilets built under the much vaunted Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (clean India campaign) scheme. The mission has met with criticism for being badly thought out and inconsistently implemented. But it is one of the flagship programmes of the Prime Minister, dominating headlines and advertising spaces. The Sikalkars in Risod would be able to appreciate toilets better if they had access to adequate shelter, running water and electricity. Community Correspondent Rohini Khandare has helped the fifty families make online application for housing under the PMAY. She asks, “On the one hand we proudly make claims of Digital India. But how are communities like this benefitting from this?” An uphill battle against government apathy awaits the fifty families. To join in their struggle call the District Collector of Washim, Maharashtra on +91 7252233401 and ask him to take the necessary steps to ensure that the community gets houses built under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.

Article by Madhura Chakraborty with inputs from Abhishek Shah.

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