Don’t disadvantage the poor and middle class.
That was the Opposition’s appeal to Government yesterday on the eve of today’s 2017 budget delivery.
Corina Legendre, nine, and her brother Calib, seven, live in an abandoned hunter’s camp in the Tableland forest and walk four miles to school every day but on Tuesday, their mother cried when she got a lot of land and the promise of a house from the Government. Geeta Maharaj-Legendre, 35, was a special beneficiary recipient of a lot of residential land from the newly formed Ministry of Land and Marine Resources headed by Minister Jairam Seemungal.
The land is located in Buen Intento, Princes Town. Another 150 people, selected by a lottery system out of 40,000 applicants in the Land for the Landless, Residential Lots Programme, also got properties in the first phase of distribution. They were given their deeds by the ministry in a distribution function at Centre Point Mall, Chaguanas.
Deputy Speaker of the House and Princes Town MP Nela Khan, also promised to help Maharaj-Legendre build her house with help from the Self-Help Commission, the Muslim association and through other fund raising efforts. Maharaj-Legendre, who journeyed from Tableland for her deed, wiped tears of joy and gratitude from her eyes. “I feel happy the children will not have to go through all that stress again,” she told the Guardian. “I thank the minister, everybody.”
She said her husband left her and the children three years ago and his family, with whom they were staying, threw them out. “We were sleeping on the cricket ground until we got a place to rent. “I did domestic work until I got sick with asthma and couldn’t work again.”
Maharaj-Legendre said she and her children moved from place to place as people gave them a shelter. A relative allowed them to stay in the hunter’s camp off McSween Trace, George Village, Tableland, where they still live.
With steel in her foot from an injury, she walks Corina and Calib eight miles to and from the Nipal Presbyterian School every day along the potholed gravel trace. They collect rainwater, use kerosene lamps for light at nights and collect firewood to cook their meals. In a previous Guardian interview, Maharaj-Legendre said she wanted a better life for her two children. “I don’t know how to read or write but I want to educate my children. I don’t want them to be dependent on people. My son wants to be a policeman.”
Another needy case
Denise Moore, a 50-year old mother of five who lives in a shack in King’s Wharf, San Fernando, was another special beneficiary recipient of land from the ministry. Moore sells snacks in the Public Transport Service Corporation compound for a living. She got her land in Milton, Couva. The lots are given out with all the statutory approvals and the necessary infrastructure like water, electricity and paved roads.
The recipients, many of whom are single parents, can use the land to get subsidised financing from the T&T Mortgage Finance Company to build their houses. Those who earn $7,000 and less can also benefit from a subsidy of up to $50,000 under the Programme Monitoring and Co-ordinating Unit of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.