MAHAD, Maharashtra, 22th May 2007: 26th July 2005 was a dire day for the western India state of Maharashtra - torrential rains poured relentlessly, and the resulting floods and landslides took a heavy toll on lives, crops and property. More than 1,100 people lost their lives and many houses were destroyed.
Two years later, the families in Mahad town in the severely affected Raigad district have reason to smile. Over 200 families received new homes in Mahad, about 190km. from Maharashtra's capital Mumbai. Of these, 78 were built by Habitat for Humanity and its partners.
Together with its partners Rotary Club of Bombay and Jankalyan Trust, Habitat completed 66 houses in Kondivite village and 12 in Rohan village in Mahad town. The land was acquired by the state government and granted to the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that were building homes. After Habitat for Humanity in India and its partners built the houses, the state government is responsible for infrastructure such as roads, water and electricity.
The chief minister of Maharashtra, Vilasrao Deshmukh, was the guest of honor at a recent hand-over ceremony that was also attended by local politicians and representatives of the NGOs, including Felix Fernandes, Habitat's chief financial officer in India. Deshmukh handed over symbolic keys to representatives of the various villages, and certificates of appreciation to the NGOs that helped.
Commending the NGOs, the chief minister said: "The government has carried out this work as a duty, whereas the NGOs have done this out of sheer commitment to the social cause. I have seen this for the first time that when the government and the NGOs join hands together, miracles can happen. I want to take this Mahad model to the whole of Maharashtra and show to the world that this collaboration can work wonders."
A few days after the handover, the Kondivite villagers organized their own house dedication and house-warming ceremony. Among the invited guests were staff members of Habitat in India, representatives from Rotary Club of Bombay and Jankalyan Trust.
For many families, Pooja Bedi was a familiar and welcome sight. The Indian TV celebrity had led volunteers to Kondivite village on several occasions under a special program called "Build with Pooja Bedi". The program was part of Habitat's Maharashtra Flood Response Initiative that aims to build 1,000 homes for affected families.
Also present at the dedication ceremony were Harry Singh Arora, president of the Rotary Club of Bombay, Father Carlton Kinny, director of Jankalyan Trust, and Gul Kripalani, a member of IndiaBUILDS advisory committee. Kripalani, the chairman and managing director of Pijikay Industries Ltd, was also a former president of Rotary Club of Bombay.
A Habitat home partner commented that "the landslide made us homeless, but the NGOs gave us a roof over our heads".
Bedi added: "I am glad that I was part of this project. I feel much contented to see the smiles on the face of these families today. I thank Habitat for Humanity for giving me this opportunity to be part of Habitat family."