(14 Mar '02)
In 1999, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Sri Chandra Babu Naidu visited Amma during Her programme in Hyderabad and asked Her if the M.A.M would undertake seva projects in Hyderabad. She readily agreed. The District Collector identified two large housing projects in slum colonies.
The largest one was at Guddimalkapur. After a fire in their previous slum, the residents relocated to Guddimalkapur where they built their own huts. They had communal water taps but no electricity. The huts leaked and mosquitoes made life very uncomfortable. Each family had one hut; a simple, bare, clean space about 2.5 square metres made from recycled materials, mostly plastic and cardboard. In one corner there was always an altar to the family’s deity. There were no amenities.
The housing project nearby, which the Chief Minister asked Amma to complete, was no more than a construction site. The superstructure had been built by the government, and then abandoned years before. M.A.M completed the walls, windows, doors and interior finishes. It was an enormous task, considering that it was necessary to provide road access, water tanks and electricity, as well as bore wells for water.
Br. Rajesh, in charge of the construction work, says: “When I arrived here the site had been abandoned for some time. I moved into the superstructure, built a room and we made an office. There was filth everywhere. I could barely eat my food. There was no water supply, the structure was dirty and I couldn’t move around. I felt so helpless, one day I simply broke down in tears. The people are full of heart, and seeing my distress, they realised that they had to do something.
“The work was very hard and the conditions were very bad, but seeing our efforts to clean up parts of the site, the people started to change. They helped us and became more aware about the need to keep the site tidy. It was not easy because they had no proper amenities in the slum. But we lived closely together and we helped each other.
“Very soon after I moved in they were visiting me for two or three hours a day. They would tell me their problems and they loved to hear my stories about Amma. Soon we were having satsangs every night after the work.”
The homes were built in the fashion of a low-rise housing project, a complex of 18 apartment blocks, three stories high. In all, 900 new homes have been provided in Hyderabad, and two long-standing slum colonies stand empty of their former residents.
The Second Colony: Filim Nagar
The Film Nagar slum was a cramped colony of huts. The Amrita Kuteeram team built two new two-story apartment blocks nearby, in the same style of the Guddimalkapur blocks. 176 families were rehoused. There is also a general store on site for everyday essentials.