With two years to go for the next Lok Sabha elections, the UPA government has decided to focus on quality assurance, instead of meeting quantitative targets, in key social sector schemes.
Two important programmes — houses under the Indira Awas Yojna (IAY) and toilets under the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) — are set to witness a major hike in per unit cost of construction.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has reportedly agreed to rural development minister Jairam Ramesh's proposal to increase the IAY per unit cost to R75,000 from the existing R45,000. Cabinet clearance will be sought soon.
Meanwhile, a proposal to increase the construction cost of each rural toilet to Rs. 9,900 under the TSC is on the agenda of the cabinet meeting on Thursday. At present, the per unit allocation stands at Rs. 4,500.
Ironically, the proposal to increase the construction cost of rural toilets comes after the Planning Commission, a key body in formulating these schemes, spent R35 lakh on renovating toilets in its office.
Top government sources admitted that the increased per unit cost may take a toll on the number of households proposed to be covered under the two schemes. “But it would ensure quality in construction, and we have received several complaints that it is impossible to build houses and toilets through the current allocations as there has been a manifold rise in the cost of material,” said an official.
Alex Paul Menon, the collector of Naxal-affected Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, had recently suggested to Jairam Ramesh that resources under various heads may be utilised to develop select villages, instead of catering to more areas.
As many as 2.7 crore houses were constructed (up to 2011-end) under IAY, incurring an expenditure of R78,986 crore. In 2011- 12, only 11.07 lakh houses were constructed against the target of 27.27 lakh houses.
Against the approved target of 12.5 crore household toilets, 8.7 crore have been achieved till now under TSC, data from the ministry showed.