Centre raises concerns over slow pace of housing scheme for poor
The Union rural development ministry has raised concerns over the “drastic slowdown” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship housing scheme for the rural poor and has recommended that an “intense follow-up” is required by states/Union Territories (UTs). The ministry has pointed out several factors behind the delay in meeting targets.
An agenda paper of the ministry for an annual review of its schemes has cited that the gap between number of houses sanctioned and those that have been completed stands at 3.12 million in the second phase of the rural housing programme in 2019-20.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), which is an upgraded version of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-era Indira Awas Yojna, 17.2 million houses have been completed since 2014, after Modi came to power at the Centre.
The scheme not only helps the rural homeless population get pucca houses, it also generates work, as up to 90 days of work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), 2005, is required to build one house.
However, this year, the programme got off to a tepid start. The government’s agenda paper attributed the delay to factors such as “inactivity during the Covid-19-induced lockdown restrictions, saturation of eligible beneficiaries from the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) category, tardy pace of work and lack of timely allocation of targets to districts”.
Bihar tops the list of states lagging behind, as it has 988,000 incomplete houses. Other states that have failed to implement the scheme on time include West Bengal, which has 573,000 incomplete dwelling units, Madhya Pradesh (300,000), Odisha (240,000 ) and Rajasthan (223,000).
Rahul Ranjan Mahiwal, special secretary in Bihar’s rural development department, said the shortfall in meeting the target was because of several factors, including last year’s floods and the Covid-19 lockdown that led to shortage of labourers. He said authorities will expedite work and set a target of completing 300,000 units in the next three months from October to December.
“Last year, the floods in north Bihar disrupted work...Besides, the lockdown (that began in March-end) also disrupted construction activity for several months,” he said.
West Bengal’s panchayat and rural development minister, Subrata Mukherjee, said, “This calculation should be done at the end of the year. West Bengal has not lagged behind in social welfare schemes ever since the Trinamool Congress came to power (in 2011). Our state was awarded by the Centre last year for completing projects under PMAY on time. The certificate is displayed in my office.”
The Union rural development ministry has a target to construct 6.1 million houses in this financial year. It has also asked states that are facing shortage of land to consider building multi-storeyed structures.
“Considerable progress in terms of allocation of land and further completion of their house is required,” the agenda note stated.
The note prepared for a review meeting, to be held in August-end, stated: “Some states such as Maharashtra and Bihar have their own schemes for allotment of land and the same may be replicated by the other states. The states that cannot proceed with allotment of land from their schemes must actively explore the option of construction of multi-storey houses on government land.”
Land acquisition for the scheme is a state subject.
The Centre has pointed out that Aadhaar seeding of beneficiaries is a pending issue and 63% of the unique identification number has been updated in the scheme’s central database to date. The ministry has directed states that seeding should be done “on utmost priority”.
The note pointed out “in respect of some states, saturation of eligible beneficiaries from the SC/ST category is one of the reasons behind the slow allocation of houses and their completion. State governments are expected to start the process of allocation of houses to the newly added eligible beneficiaries after their Aadhaar seeding is done.”
The ministry has also warned that “no deletion of (Aadhaar) entries can be done by the states/UTs”.
(With inputs from HTC in Patna and Kolkata)