As climate change and deforestation have increased the risks associated with living in a thatched hut, including fire and water damage, more families are seeking pakka (concrete) homes, for the sake of safe shelter and avoiding annual roof repairs. In 2014, AID India launched the Eureka Homes program in rural Tamil Nadu providing assistance to families in need in Dalit and tribal communities, particularly those headed by single women and senior citizens living on their own After a thorough review process, eligible families are offered options for the design and construction of the house. They contribute their own labor, sometimes with help from neighbors.
Today nearly 500 families are living in Eureka homes – over 450 in Tamil Nadu, the rest in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Odisha. Where feasible, they also take part in the kitchen garden initiative, ensuring access to fresh vegetables at home.
Dr. Damodharan who coordinates the Eureka homes program notes that once families moved into their pakka homes, “the overall health of the family got improved. Girls told us that now they were sleeping well without fear, and able to read in the evenings.”
Last year, in tribal hamlets of Chengalpattu, Thiruvallur and Ranipet districts, AID India grassroots workers started helping families apply and follow up with block level officials to obtain documents required to access government schemes. Today 50 families have obtained pattas (titles) to their land, which protects their right to their land and allows them to access further benefits such as housing schemes, directly from the government.
As families make improvements in their shelter, health, nutrition and education, so also they assert their rights. Their example helps others come forward, raise expectations, and make the government work for the people.
July 2022 | Thanks to M Damodharan and Malay Kumar, AID India for information and photos included in this post.