Concern on funding scheme of the Rajiv Awas Yojana of the Urban Housing Ministry of GoI
Shri Pranab Mukherjee, The Finance Minister, Govt of India
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Adequate Housing is a basic right and is a basic amenity for living a dignified life. All across India, members of the public, women and men, struggle for a long time to put together enough resources for a roof over their heads. Acquiring a house is so central to our lives, irrespective of whether we are urban or rural, rich or poor. Every Indian family dreams of acquiring their own house, however small, as a measure of security and protection. But alas, for millions of our citizens, secure housing is still a distant dream.
We draw your attention to the fact that urban housing stock in India is suffering from a severe shortage and a huge backlog exists due to inadequate delivery through successive five year plans. Since the GoI prepared a NUHHP 2007 for affordable housing after the JNNURM was launched, it is only now in the second term of the UPA govt, that urban poor and slum dwellers (estimated to number about 80 million people) and those in the EWS / LIG category have been given a chance to build their own houses and live in a dignified manner and not in huts/ thatched roof and plastic structures.
The Rajiv Awas Yojana (2009-17) a flagship scheme of the UPA govt is a major step to redress the historical backlog and the current housing needs in the 11th FYP and also the 12th FYP. 99\% of the housing shortage of 24.7 million is for EWS and LIG sections at the end of 10th five year plan, which the GoI needs to address first. The Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) scheme carries the potential to correct historical shortcomings but can be a success only if it addresses the needs of the urban poor family as a whole unit, comprising women, men, children and the elderly.
Across many cities in India today, a situation exists that millions of poor urban residents are living insecure lives without shelter and facing the threat of evictions and dislocation at any time. The massive housing shortage is the cumulative result of decades of neglect and exclusion of the poor from the entire urban planning process. In sharp contrast so much finances has poured into housing for HIG and luxury apartments, that today there is glut of such housing stock. Unsold apartments exist side by side with slums packed with people and suffering inadequate infrastructure and provision of public services like water and sanitation, roads and streetlights and a healthy environment.
Major changes are expected by the public from the govt in implementing the RAY scheme. A huge expenditure is to be incurred by the GoI for the scheme as per estimates provided to the Standing committee on Urban Development of 14th Lok Sabha (2008-09) estimated at Rs. 608,000 crores.
Indian government is a signatory to many international covenants, and so when implementing a major urban housing mission it is imperative that the GoI adheres/ conforms to the concept of a scheme based on recognising the housing rights of the urban poor and low income public. Central to the recognition of this right is also acknowledging the importance of ensuring that the urban poor family is provided the opportunity to individually design and construct their housing, as necessary. We welcome the RAY which makes provision for this most important aspect of addressing housing needs of urban poor.
We are however concerned about how the GoI is going to raise the massive amounts required to address the housing shortage. The GoI must ensure that the scheme will be funded through a centre-state cost sharing formula and thereby accomplish the fulfilment of this right to adequate housing. Accountability of the govt and the parliament to the electorate can be achieved through this mechanism since this is in conformity with the constitution.
We strongly oppose public-private partnerships as a means of
financing housing for the poor. The track record of PPP schemes reveals that not only has the private sector failed to bring in capital investment as expected but they have also failed to deliver on services as promised. The failure of PPP schemes have resulted in the bloating of shortage of housing stock for urban poor and importantly, has disadvantaged the State measures to address the needs of poor.
As an illustration, we may consider the example of Public Private Partnership (PPP) in housing which has been practiced since late 1990s in Mumbai in the form of Slum Rehabilitation Scheme, where the private builder is given the prime responsibility of bearing the full cost of providing alternate accommodation (housing) to the slum dwellers and in return to it gets vacant land & TDR for free. The success or failure of the Scheme can be judged from the fact that when the scheme was started it was promised that houses to 4 lakh families will be provided in period of 5 years and at that time the number of families living in slums in Mumbai were around 12 lakh. Till date houses have been given only to 85,000 families while the number of families living in Mumbai slums has increased from 12 lakh to 60 lakh!
The implementation of Slum Rehabilitation scheme has seen gross irregularities and violations of the law of the land as well as rights of the slum dwellers. Shri S. Tinaiker, ex-Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MCGM) in his report on implementation of the scheme concluded that the Scheme is by the builders, of the builders and for the builders. The scheme of late has seen involvement of unscrupulous elements because of high rate of return. The support given by the state to builders who fail to deliver, contrasts sharply with the attack on slum activists and others who protest the failure of PPP schemes and the anti- poor nature of such urban development programmes.
The instances of un-kept promises are innumerable as is the list of scams that have taken place in the name of this scheme. Presently the scheme has taken the form of private land grabbing as vast lands across Mumbai have been transferred to builders in the name of rehabilitating slum dwellers under this scheme. At Golibar, a slum in close vicinity to Mumbai Chattrapati Shivaji airport 140 Acres of land has been given to Unitech P Ltd. Similarly 140 Acres of land has been given under this scheme to Akruti Builders at Wadala where MMRDA is developing 100 + stories building.
Sir, we would like to stress that PPPs in practice, have just become a euphemism for privatisation and to state supporting the cornering of resources by private interest. Failed PPP schemes represent not just failure to achieve targets but vitally it puts back the clock too. These have resulted in unrestricted entry of private builders and real estate firms in urban development sector to the detriment of equity and inclusion of the poor in the schemes.
The PPP method is neither democratic nor accountable. We would like to emphasise that investment needs for housing provision of urban poor can be addressed in ways not necessarily through the PPP mechanism.
As the budget session of Parliament is to commence soon, we demand that the RAY scheme must conform to the provisions of the Constitution of India and international covenants. In particular, we demand:
Funding formula for the schemes should be through a Centre-State govt sharing mechanism and not through PPP;
Centre should not approach agencies like World Bank for funds, or accept conditions which promote the private sector at the cost of retaining public control over infrastructure resources.
State government Action Plan for Rajiv Awas Yojana should be based on the needs of the public and must be prepared in consultation with the beneficiaries.
We the concerned members of mass movements, workers groups and housing activists urge you to announce financial support to the RAY in the budget 2010 based on above mentioned demands. There are many schemes and policies of the UPA I & II govts, e.g., the NREGS, the proposed food security act and the Right to Information Act 2005 which are pro-people and based on the needs expressed by the electorate. We look forward to the strengthening of such rights based policies and schemes through the flagship Housing scheme Rajiv Awas Yojana.