Mass housing projects in Solapur, India, prove that the sheer strength of workers’ sustained movements, with the cooperation of governments, can deliver results.
“Earlier we used stay in a small hut in a slum in Shastri Nagar, Solapur city. When it rained, the hut used to leak, and there wouldn’t be a single dry patch inside. We had to continuously bail out the water when it rained,” says Balamani Ambaiah Mergu. She is rolling beedis, a thin cigarette, at her house at Kumbhari, the site of a housing initiative led by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
Mergu, whose mother tongue is Telugu, is one of the beedi workers who are part of the first of the three major housing projects of the CITU in Solapur, in south-eastern Maharashtra, a state in west India. The project, named after the late communist leader Godavari Parulekar, counts 10,000 houses and was hailed as the biggest of its kind in Asia.
The housing initiative by the CITU in Solapur is a landmark effort which has provided affordable housing to thousands of workers. By forming cooperatives and by persuading the federal and state governments to dedicate funds for the purpose, the workers have had more than 15,000 houses built since 2001. The construction of another 30,000 houses began in January 2018, and is expected to be completed in four years.