Access to permanent shelter is necessary to stabilise the lives of the rural poor. By building functional dwellings for Dalits, tribals, and Persons with Disabilities, RDT has been tackling poverty at the grassroots.
Often without any land or funds, marginalised communities depend upon the government to provide them with a suitable abode. But distances, increase in input costs, and poor transportation infrastructure meant that neither information, nor funds or materials were readily and/or effectively available. These gaps left villagers open to being manipulated by profiteers or under-served by government schemes that they were eligible for. RDT has proved to be an effective intermediary in such cases by bringing all stakeholders – including the government authorities and the beneficiaries – on board, driving progress and tracking accountability.
In his earliest years in Ananthapuram, Father Ferrer tried to build homes for the poor seeing the destitution of some of the settlements. Starting with 1000 houses at Raninagar, a large settlement of daily-wage workers and their families, which was ravaged by fire; RDT’s housing programme has built over 3000 houses since 1972 under the ‘Food for Work programme’ in Ananthapuram district, Tarimela,
and areas of B.K. Samudram, Somuladoddi, Rapthadu, Nadimidoddi, Narpala and Dharmavaram. The first full-fledged colony of 2500 homes was built at MM Halli in Uravakonda in 1994. RDT has also been tackling housing and sanitation at the grassroots-level. The absence of basic necessities such as water, electricity and proper drainage adversely affects the overall development of community members in terms of education, healthcare and social prestige.
RDT’s technical team comprises of 40 area engineers, 7 regional engineers and 2 Technical Directors at the central level. A total of 61,895 houses have been built as of March 2015 which includes 2630 houses for PWDs. The beneficiaries of the programme are selected on two premises: They must be residents of the village where the construction project is implemented, and that they don’t have a permanent home. Each dwelling, comprising of the house, and the land on which the house has been built, has the deed entitled in the name of a woman, enabling empowerment through asset creation.
The programme encourages community involvement because an engaged community will be committed to maintaining its assets. Sector staff members are charged with ensuring that the community or individual:
RDT’s Housing initiative has succeeded in improving the quality of life for marginalised communities. At an emotional level, the new dwellings provide for a sense of belonging and confidence through ownership. At the physical level, the inhabitants report improved health, safety and comfort. Easy access to water frees up precious time to pursue commercial activities and electrification improves productivity by increasing the number of working. In effect, these houses are not only a matter of pride for the target community but they also render them more voice in community decision-making.
While RDT builds the structures, the government carries out the integration with other civic amenities such as water, electricity and roads. These structural changes have significantly contributed in bringing about a change in the mind-sets of the target community regarding hygiene. Because of it, they feel an increased societal inclusion as now higher caste farmers, who in the bygone days would reach out to them from afar for work (considering them to be untouchable), now come into their areas and sit with them.
RDT also undertakes projects when an entire colony is being displaced on account of dam or road construction. In such cases, RDT builds the houses with all necessities i.e. pipelines, drainage. It even takes care of the power and water supply by involving the respective boards and making necessary payments. So far, 6 to 7 such projects have been undertaken, the first one being at Vemulagondi, Talupulla in the year 2008.
A lot of emphasis is laid on providing houses to PWDs as they are the most vulnerable amongst all communities. The houses for PWDs are designed in a different way to provide maximum convenience and ease of mobility to them. In order for a community or settlement qualify for PWD housing, there should be a Vikalangula Sangham in the village. The Sangham nominates candidates for the scheme, vetted by the Area Team Leader and CBR Sector Team Leader. Habitat sector builds houses with attached toilets and leach pits to ensure the recipient has a sanitary lavatory and toilet in their home.
Finally, the programme also combines comprehensive development projects with long term humanitarian assistance in cases of natural or man-made disasters through reconstruction of houses. RDT has built houses for those affected by disasters in Kutch (Gujarat), Nagapattinam district (Tamil Nadu), Karaikal district (Puducherry), Kurnool (Andhra Pradesh) and Mehboob Nagar district (Andhra Pradesh). From 2011, RDT also started building permanent shelters for Chenchus in Kurnool, Mehboob Nagar (Telangana) and Prakasham districts.
A total of 61,895 houses built up-to 31 March, 2014
2,661 houses built for persons with disabilities
3719 houses built for villagers and 48 for PWDs in 2014-15
79 community halls cum supplementary schools, and 14 buildings constructed to function as government schools
Government of Andhra Pradesh presented an award to RDT on World Habitat Day held on 1 October 2012 at Hyderabad, for its outstanding achievement in the field of housing for the poor
RDT’s Housing programme has not only transformed the lives of the rural poor, but broken the age old system of discrimination and social ostracism. Simply by moving into a proper home, people have been able to break the invisible barrier to their continued prosperity. Lives change, people change, their future changes. Most of all, the children are now getting the opportunity to live in and shape a more just and fair society. – Seethlakshmi, field staff, Habitat Sector.
Jogulu is a backward community in Rayalseema, Ananthapuram. They were an itinerant community of entertainers, menial workers and petty traders, lived shabbily, and were generally known to have poor hygiene. As a result, they wandered through the Rayalseema region throughout the year, performing and begging in order to sustain themselves. Children missed out on schooling and the entire community was illiterate and looked down upon as beggars. Traditionally, they would dress up in colourful clothes, regale villagers with tales from the Mahabharatha in the form of folk songs, and beg for alms. Even though the community lived in the Enumula Doddi village, they did not possess any land.
In 2000, the government recognised their plight and assigned them the land they were living on, at the outskirts of Kambadur village. RDT spearheaded their development by building houses with water supply for 35 homeless families which was completed in May, 2014. RDT also constructed a school building cum community hall, and the colony was named Sree Rama Jogula Colony. Permanent homes have helped the community transition to a better living. Children have started attending school, people have realised the pride in owning and maintaining their homes, they have started keeping up their personal hygiene and of that of their surroundings, and the community has become aware of the growth possibilities for the future. Their inclusion in mainstream social activities has brought dignity and self-respect to them.
“We needed to change with changing times but without proper infrastructure, this seemed impossible. However, with RDT’s help, we can now dream of a better future.”
villager, Sree Rama Jogula Colony
People would reach out to what was closest at hand in earlier times to build their hutments. Now, they are enabled with information about, and access to, better building materials, financial assistance, government allotments and expert technical guidance about modern housing.