With Lok Sabha elections due in early 2014, the Mamata Banerjee government is leaving no stone unturned to appease the urban voters.
Accordingly, urban development and municipal affairs minister Firhad (Bobby) Hakim is personally taking interest in a project related to housing for the poor, who comprises a major portion of the vote bank in Kolkata.
The Mamata Banerjee government is trying to reap benefits of the scheme which was conceptualised by former urban development and municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya during the Left regime.
According to the last census report, a major portion of the vote bank in the state comprises urban poor and Mamata Banerjee is in no mood to loose out on this in the ensuing Lok Sabha poll.
According to the scheme, if a family, whether BPL or not, has a monthly income of up to Rs. 6,000, it would be considered ‘economically weaker class’ and is eligible for a government grant of ` 1 lakh to set up a dwelling unit. According to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) records, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee gover nment had granted an initial fund of
Rs 5 crore in January 2010. A government notification (No 25-127/MA/C-10/35-4/2009P, dated 8/1/2010) was also issued in this regard.
However, the then city mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya in a letter (dated 19/3/2010) to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government had asked for R15 crore for the same.
The Mayor- in-Council (read cabinet) meeting (dated 24/3/2010) had decided to set up 2,000 dwelling units for the urban poor as per the state government-sponsored scheme.
Municipal commissioner in his circular (no.41 of 2009-10 dated 9/3/2010) had initially allotted Rs. 50,000 per dwelling unit for 1,000 houses, which amounted to Rs. 5 crore as had been sanctioned by State Urban Development Agency (SUDA).
However, the entire initiative took a back seat after KMC election was announced in May 2010. Surprisingly, newly elected mayor from Trinamool Congress Sovan Chatterjee did not take much interest in the scheme and the new board just sat on it until recently when chief minister Mamata Banerjee suddenly realised the importance of the ‘Housing for Urban Poor’ scheme and asked Hakim to revive it.
Now, acting on Didi’s order, Hakim’s department has increased the grant amount to
Rs 1.49 lakh instead of Rs. 1 lakh per dwelling unit.
KMC’s social sector and urban poverty alleviation department had been entrusted with the job of identifying the beneficiaries for the scheme.
“The minister has asked us to make a list of the beneficiaries under the said scheme. And we are working on a war footing to ensure the benefit reaches the poor in Kolkata,” Swapan Samaddar, member, mayor-incouncil (slum development) told Hindustan Times.