Avoid lapses in housing scheme

Avoid lapses in housing scheme

The Union Cabinet’s approval of a Rs 81,975 crore plan to build one crore houses in rural areas over the next three years is yet another attempt to tackle the serious problem of housing in the country. The programme will be implemented under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna and is part of the ambitious plan to achieve universal housing by the year 2022. The scheme aims to provide brick and mortar houses to all houseless people and those living in kachha houses and to provide basic amenities like power and water to them. A financial assistance of up to Rs 1.30 lakh will be provided to the needy families for this. The target is to build 2.95 crore houses by 2022. There is a view that this is an underestimation of the requirement and the actual housing shortage may be twice or three times of the target. The view is supported by census data and studies made by experts.

But that only increases the urgency and importance of implementing the programme. If well implemented, it can meet the basic housing need of a large section of the population and give a boost to the economy. But the challenges are many. They are both financial and administrative. The financial provision, based on cost estimates, may be all right. But 40% of the funding has to come from the states and this can create uncertainties. If the programme gets a political colour, full cooperation may not be forthcoming from all states. Identification of beneficiaries will have to be done with care so that those who are genuinely deserving are not left out. The socio-economic and caste data from the 2011 census is proposed to be used for this. There is the need for co-ordination between the Centre and the states in this and on other matters.

Finding adequate land may also pose difficulties in many places. Public land stock is not available in many rural areas. Selection of beneficiaries should not suffer from biases and prejudices. It is also important to ensure that mismanagement and administrative problems do not hamper the implementation of the scheme. The CAG’s criticism of the working of the Indira Awas Yojna, the precursor of the present scheme, is very relevant. It had observed that there were irregularities like fudging of figures and cheating of beneficiaries in the implementation of the scheme. Utilisation of funds was far below the target. The report shows in detail how such government schemes fail at the stage of implementation.  Such lapses should be avoided.

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