Bizhubani, November 20 (RNS) A community in north Kerala that has been trying to develop its own housing stock for decades, is now making strides in its quest to transform a derelict industrial area into a functioning city-centre.
The village of Bizhekarama is part of the Bizhabari district in south-central Kerala.
For more than two decades, it has sought to transform the derelict area of Bakhchuram, a slum in the state capital, Kannur, into a thriving commercial and residential hub.
The Bizhalars, an ethnic Indian community, have built their own industrial area in the town of Bishan, about 70 kilometres (45 miles) from the state’s capital.
The town of the same name is a former mill town, which was abandoned by the state government.
The community has managed to convince the government to help it convert the derelicts land into commercial and housing spaces.
The new village, called Bizharayam, is an offshoot of the community’s efforts.
It is situated on a hillside in the industrial district, which has been abandoned by local government.
The community plans to build a modern residential compound, a modern office and a small warehouse for its members.
The villagers of Biyabhamam, which sits on the hillside, said the development of the village has been a long-term struggle.
“We started this project in 2007 and it has taken us almost eight years to get it done,” said Dinesh Kumar, the village elder.
The village is part-built-up.
The main houses are built by the residents and the village elders.
They sell the land to builders.
They build a building from the land.
The land is taken by the villagers.
The project has already started.
“The first house was built in 2014.
Now we have built a few more,” said Kumar.
The land on which the community has built the community housing is owned by the village’s members.
The members are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the buildings.
They buy the land from the villagers for Rs2,000 a year.
“There are also three members of the local council.
We pay them Rs1,000 per year.
The rest is paid by the community,” said Bizhanabhamakumu, the landowner.
“But the land is not used for anything but to make buildings.
This is our land, and we have to use it for the community.”
The village also buys the land for the use of the residents.
“Our community has already built the houses, and it is only now we want to use the land,” said Bhushanamur, the head of the cooperative.
The area has been used for agriculture and the building of a number of shops, including a shoe store.
It also has a restaurant.
“All our residents come here for work.
They live in a small village,” said the headman of the restaurant.
He said that the community had started building their own residential complex in the early 1980s, which had three floors.
“After that, the community moved into the larger industrial area.
The area is used as a factory and a warehouse.
The other buildings have been demolished and the land taken by us,” he said.
“However, now the community is going for a different direction.
We want to create a new neighbourhood,” he added.
The people who have been working on the project for years said the community would like to build up the residential compound to the standard of the nearby residential areas.
The villagers also plan to create another community building, which would accommodate the members of other villages.
The government in Kerala is looking at a number different projects in the area.
“It is very important that the state be at the forefront of the process,” said Kavita Krishnan, the minister in charge of the state, adding that the government was also trying to bring more development to the area to improve the quality of life for the residents of the area, the villagers and the nearby community.
“So far, the state has not been able to get the necessary approvals for the project,” said Krishnan.
“When the state gives the green light, we will do our best to get them through,” she said.
The state government has invested in several projects to create jobs for the area’s residents.
In 2014, the Kerala government opened a school and a preschool in the community, with the aim of creating a high school for children of the people.
In 2018, the government also created a school for disadvantaged children in the village.
The government also launched the Dravidian Community Centre, which is now functioning as a small educational institution for the children of nearby communities.
In 2017, the Bakhshuram district administration announced plans to convert the area into