BY NEHA HEGDE
Kuthambakkam village in Tamil Nadu has overcome caste oppression and poverty to be a national model of participatory governance, improving the village economy. The poor housing conditions had been the biggest issue to be resolved by the villagers. 50% of the village population is Dalits (untouchables).
The Innovative Rural Housing and Habitat Development in Kuthambakkam Village venture were started by the Trust for Village Self Governance (TVSG), a magnanimous trust set up in 2001. This trust involved the creation of women self-help groups, skill development including construction skills, development of innovative and cost-effective industrial materials. This all was possible because of social integration.
Episode 6 – ” Swaraj Ke Tapu” of the web series Transparency: Pardarshita written, directed, and produced by Munish Raizada portrays how Elango – an engineer transformed Kuthambakkam village in Tamilnadu. In 1996, during the panchayat elections, Kuthambakkam was reserved for a candidate from the Dalit community. Elango decided to quit his engineer job and took a political pitch.
When the director of the web series- “Transparency: Pardarshita” meets Elango, he says that his aim was on winning the election as an independent candidate was gaining the support of those who did not belong to the Dalit community, which is 48% of Kuthambakkam’s population.
After preparing a development blueprint for the project, Elango sought villagers’ opinions on every aspect. The gram sabha validated his proposals and decided to prioritize the work. Elango understood the strength of the participatory approach.
Want to read more in Hindi? Checkout: कथनी से ज़्यादा करनी पर ज़ोर देने वाले बने दो आदर्श ग्राम
The Aims and of the project were:
- Improve housing conditions in the Kuthambakkam village using innovative and appropriate technologies.
- Establish Kuthambakkam village to emerge as a role model for integrated rural habitat and economic development.
- Establish a Panchayat Academy for the purpose of spreading good practice among village panchayats.
Focusing on the children and women was his two-pronged strategy. He improved the infrastructure of schools. With the help of bureaucracy, Elango’s team was able to stop illicit brewing in the village. But that made men end up without livelihood. This was solved by forming men’s self-help groups.
In the web series, we can see how self-help groups were making loungers, incense sticks, medical aid packs, cleansers, and separating oil from coconuts and peanuts. They worked for the sake of the village and not to gain commercial existence through industrial development. The village economy thrived to get better. It was not just Elango but it was the effort of all villagers together.
He also constructed a Panchayat academy which not only exists in Tamil Nadu but all over the nation in some regions.