A housing project with a happy ending - and some lessons learned.
The plan was to renovate 85 homes for people affected by leprosy in a colony in Durgapur, an industrial city in India's West Bengal state. But the plan hit a snag and the project had to be scaled back. Instead of work on 85 houses that had been budgeted for by the Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation (GMLF) with support from Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation (SMHF), only 60 could be repaired.
But following a visit to the mayor by a delegation that included colony residents, the city granted 500,000 rupees to cover the remaining renovations. Sudhakar Bandyopadhyay of the German Leprosy and TB Relief Association (India), who played a key role in the project, explains what transpired.
The foundations of the houses at Durgapur Colony were very weak. Continuous heavy rain had caused severe damage. The allocated funds were found to be inadequate. In consultation with the colony committee, it was decided to repair 60 houses on a priority basis and the remaining 25 houses when more funds became available.
Since Durgapur is an industrial area, the municipal corporation is comparatively well off. It occurred to me that the mayor, Mr. Rathin Roy, might be able to help. I discussed the idea with the colony leaders Mr. Mukherjee, Mr. Bimal and Mr. Lalan. They knew the mayor to be a good and sympathetic person. They also mentioned local city councilor and borough chairman, Mr. Shib Shankar Chatterjee. Through Mr. Chatterjee, I fixed an appointment with the mayor and led a delegation of about 10 persons from the colony, along with Mr. Chatterjee, to see him. The mayor gave us enough time, listened to what we had to say and announced that he was immediately allocating 500,000 rupees for repairs.
We explained the housing situation and living conditions of the people and their sufferings. In particular, we emphasized the difficulties faced by the elderly, the disabled and the blind, especially in the heavy rain. We raised the possibility of the houses collapsing and the casualties that might occur. We also noted the economic circumstances of the colony residents and the responsibility of the city to look out for their welfare as part of good governance.
I think it was a combination of the above points together with one more. I explained that friends from Japan had extended support for 60 houses and said I hoped that the mayor would kindly provide support for the rest. I think that made an impression and he felt it would be appropriate.
To generate the necessary political and administrative will to ensure receiving the desired support, it is important that the facilitator and the people in need make a proper presentation of the facts.