At a time efforts are on to make India slum-free, Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY)-UPA's flagship programme to provide home/ property rights to slum dwellers-seems to have excluded some of the most vulnerable city residents, who are not living in slums, from benefiting from the scheme.
Picking holes in RAY which was approved by the cabinet in June, Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) has urged the Centre to amend RAY guidelines to bring the "ultra poor" like residents of homeless shelters, those living in pavements, parks or vacant lands under its ambit.
"The restriction of the programme to slum dwellers excludes some of the most vulnerable city residents…. However, the working group believes that these excluded social groups are most in need of right to shelter, and are left out from a programme meant for social housing for the urban poor," an NAC working group on urban poverty headed by Harsh Mander said in its draft recommendation.
RAY is being implemented by the housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry. Providing property rights to slum dwellers is one of the most important features of the scheme. At present, only residents of slum settlements are eligible for RAY.
The NAC wants that these vulnerable groups not only be treated on par with residents of slums but also "fast tracked as having highest priority under RAY."
It has also asked the Centre to redefine slums.
"The present definition leaves out scattered slum dwellers who live in more isolated small groups, or in solitary dwellings."
The working group was set up to propose reforms for RAY. "We have submitted the draft recommendation. The NAC will be finalising it after which the proposal would go to the Centre," said Mander.
Emphasising the need for a transparent mechanism for mapping slums and surveying eligible persons, the working group has also proposed a moratorium on all forced evictions, which it says should be opted for only if there is a strong reason of public good and safety.