|Pavement dweller Mariamma, 27, will walk in to cast her first vote during the 2014 election thanks to a Chennai-based NGO which has given her not just a voter ID card and a house to live but also a livelihood to sustain her daughter and grandmother.
Along with Mariamma, about 115 more people who used to live on the pavements in Egmore, Chintadripet and Ayanavaram bus stand have been given permanent shelters under the pavement dwellers rehabilitation programme of Equitas Development Initiatives Trust (EDIT).
Structured in three phases, the programme aims to not just finding them permanent houses but also impart some life skill training to ensure a regular source of income in future.
“Identifying people who matched our selection criteria was the most difficult as it had to be people living in pavement for five years, who had no house of their own and capable of sustaining themselves, said Mr John Alex, programme director of EDIT.
The idea is to get the pavement dwellers accepted in the society. “For the first six months, we paid the rent and gave groceries along with vocational training such as phenyl making, electrical work, plumbing etc.
From the 7th month they take up regular jobs,” said project director Mr Sathyanarayana.
By having the participants pay back the rent and security deposit paid by the trust after the 19th month, the programme would be able to recover 75 per cent of its costs, which could then be used to help more families.
With over 40 people of the total 115 beneficiaries being women and mostly single mothers, the programme has already earned accolades from many government quarters.
“This model should be studied by international aid organisations and presents scope for improving the lives of pavement dwellers across the world, said Mr Arun Ramanathan, ex-Union finance secretary, who distributed the first set of voter cards.
Next election, Mariamma will not just be gawking at the politicians in awe
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