An ambitious low-cost housing project Aashiyana of RID 3141 for Adivasi families living in mud-reef huts across various padas (hamlets) in the Palghar district of Maharashtra has so far completed 110 pucca, concrete houses, while 215 units are under construction. The project team led by district project director Raj Khosla has got consent to deliver 425 houses. “Soon work on the balance 100 houses will start. Thanks to the large-heartedness and continued support of district Rotarians, we have got fresh commitments to build new houses which will be taken up in due course,” said IPDG Sunnil Mehra.
Khosla was assigned the task of initiating the project by contacting the local authorities for permission, roping in architects and selecting the building contractors. Before the initial forays, he had to convince the Adivasi beneficiaries to take advantage of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PM’s Housing Scheme) that provides low-cost homes to the rural poor. The Aashiyana project was implemented under the ambit of this scheme.
The GoI gave a subsidy of ₹1.2 lakh for a unit cost of ₹2 lakh and the project hit a stumbling block at the early stages itself as no contractor was willing to work under the existing terms of the housing scheme. District secretary Anil Jain devised a “brilliant idea of conducting a fundraiser called ‘game of housie’ that was played across the district by rolling the dices. And one of the conditions is that to participate in this game, a club has to sponsor a house. In the first month itself, 50 houses were committed by the district clubs, and the game was a phenomenal success,” said Mehra.
Aashayein ‘Dil mein hogi’
But the money raised was not enough and Ann Mini Khosla curated a musical fundraiser titled Aashayein dil mein hogi (Hope in the heart) which collected sizeable CSR funds from the corporates.
The project team worked with the zilla parishad officials to release the government portion of funding, convinced the homeowners to demolish their existing dwellings and got the right contractors for the housing project. RCs Palghar, Dahanu and Wada helped the team to hold meetings with local officials including the gram panchayat sarpanch.
“Completing the first 50 houses was the toughest. But after the initial struggle, the Aashiyana team set up an excellent system and from there on the construction went smoothly,” said Mehra. Utmost care was taken in designing the house to ensure optimum use of available space and provide an aesthetic look.
A joyful moment
While handing over the first house, DG Mehra felt embarrassed, though happy, after a beneficiary, an 80-year-old woman bent and touched his feet as a token of gratitude to Rotary. She broke a coconut, did a small puja before entering the house. After completing the ritual, she took out a box of pedas, and put a piece in Mehra’s mouth. “She was happy to step into her very own new home for the first time in her life.”
The club presidents who went to hand over the completed houses announced a number of service projects for the beneficiaries — a 3H Project (health, hunger and hygiene) where food grains and reusable sanitary pads were distributed; around 1,600 children were given nutritious food to tackle malnourishment; bore wells were dug and pipelines laid for supply of tap water to all houses; and construction of community and medical centres for the Adivasi families was announced. Rtn Dilip Shah from RC Bombay Hanging Gardens provided tube lights and fans to be installed at the Rotary Aashiyana houses.