Believe it or not, while the rest of the country cries hoarse over rising prices, this small panchayat tucked away among lush green serene surroundings near Kochi has not seen any change in prices of essential commodities in the past five years!
Yes, unbelievable as it seems, this is reality in Kizhakkambalam, thanks to the community development initiative launched by “Twenty20 Kizhakkambalam,” the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) arm of Kitex Garments Limited.
“A long-term vision, systematic and scientific approach to make the panchayat economically and socially sustainable, finding permanent solution to issues like infrastructure, food security, water, health, education and housing, among others, is what we have adopted to make it possible,” explains Kitex chairman and managing director Sabu M Jacob, the brain behind the initiative.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But then, it is a complex roadmap for all-round development, an intricate policy of largesse, subsidy, procurement, demand and supply based on local community needs and a sound marketing strategy.
“Bakshya Suraksha Market,” a 40,000sft food security bazaar managed by “Twenty20 Kizhakkambalam” takes care of the essential commodities needs, including vegetables, groceries, chicken and fish, of the 60,000 people in the panchayat. All these essential commodities are sold at an incredible discount of 50 per cent to 70 per cent. For example, a half-litre sachet of milk which sells at Rs 22 outside costs a mere Rs 10 in the BSK. Even during festival seasons, when the costs spiral elsewhere, it is maintained at the same levels in this panchayat.
“My grandparents and parents silently worked for the betterment of the community and their dream was to see them thriving. I want to make their dream a reality. Our formula is to regulate the needs through a scientific study of demand and supply, and I expect the people of Kizhakkambalam to be self-sufficient and in a position to sustain themselves by 2020,” says Sabu.
Sabu, who believes in practising what he preaches, can be seen picking up trash in the town on Sundays, a must-do community service for all the inhabitants to keep the environment clean.
Among other programmes being implemented successfully by the CRS initiative are in the fields of education, housing for all, healthcare, mother and child care, roads and Infrastructure, drinking water, farming, dairy and ground water conservation.
Under “Ente Veedu (My Home) Scheme”, Twenty20 Kizhakkambalam has completed about 300 houses, besides renovating 800 houses for the needy. The contemporary looking 750sft houses include two bedrooms, a hall and a kitchen. Every house is furnished with basic kitchen accessories and facilities like European toilets, sink, light and water. The initiative also provides accessories like fans, fancy lights, furniture, dining tables, mixer/grinder sets, beds, TVs and sofa sets worth Rs 2 to 4 lakh at 50 per cent of the cost.
“Our main focus area is income generation with particular emphasis on agriculture, sheep rearing, poultry, dairy and fisheries. We have identified 2,500 families in the panchayat for self-employment, and they will be extended assistance based on their interest areas,” he said.
Not content with this, and with a view to make administration a people’s collective, Twenty20 created history of sorts by contesting the panchayat elections, heralding the entry of a corporate house into the political arena for the first time in the country. Not only did they win 17 of the 19 wards in the panchayat, it garnered as much as 69 per cent vote share in a politically-conscious State like Kerala, reflecting its growing popularity among the people.
Pointing out that the crime level had dropped by 80 per cent in three years due to the various initiatives taken up, Sabu says the ultimate aim is to make Kizhakkambalam a model panchayat in the country, one which can be replicated in any part of the world.