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BW Businessworld

Housing For All By 2022 –‘No Harm In The Vision’

The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana or the Housing for All 2022 scheme launched by the Narendra Modi government aims to provide housing for all by 2022. D.B. Gupta, former consultant to the Planning Commission of India; Amrit Abhijat, Joint Secretary, Urban Development Ministry; Jyoti Parikh, former advisor to former PM Manmohan Singh; Prashant Kumar, Joint Secretary, Rural Development Ministry; and Sudhir Krishna, former Secretary, Urban Development Ministry discuss ways to overcome hurdles and why it would be possible to achieve the target

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma

The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana or the Housing for All 2022 scheme launched by the Narendra Modi government aims to provide housing for all by 2022. D.B. Gupta, former consultant to the Planning Commission of India; Amrit Abhijat, Joint Secretary, Urban Development Ministry; Jyoti Parikh, former advisor to former PM Manmohan Singh; Prashant Kumar, Joint Secretary, Rural Development Ministry; and Sudhir Krishna, former Secretary, Urban Development Ministry discuss ways to overcome hurdles and why it would be possible to achieve the target

Ever since india gained its Independence, ensuring roti, kapda and makaan for all has been a key objective across governments. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights says everyone has a fundamental right to adequate housing and government’s have to ensure that citizens can exercise this right to live in security, peace and dignity. Through the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana or the Housing for All 2022 Scheme, the Modi government is working towards providing affordable housing to the urban poor by 2022. BW Businessworld hosted a round table where experts and stakeholders discussed the deliverability of this mission. 

Edited excerpts:

How practical is the goal of housing for all by 2022?
Sudhir Krishna: Housing is a fundamental need, be it for a family or an individual. So ‘housing for all’ is a desirable objective and goal. It has to be pursued with all sincerity and using all methods — technology, governance framework, planning and whatever is required.

Amrit Abhijat: It is a vision that we have to realise. Given the fact that there is migration, there is growth, the demand will always keep coming. The vision has to be realised in a manner that we have to fulfil the housing shortage. We are confident that we would be able to both pursue and achieve the goal.

Prashant Kumar: It is highly desirable because ultimately housing is one among the three basic needs and it needs to be fulfilled especially since the people in the rural areas may not be economically well off. So, government assistance is required and that is why we are here to fulfil the goal of ‘housing for all’ by 2022.

D.B. Gupta: By and large, there are enough houses. There is a small and significant percentage who are living on the roads and that is what the Census says. So technically everyone has some kind of shelter. But those who migrate for short term to cities find it difficult. Then you built rain baseras (shelter homes). Technically, there is no shortage. The shortage comes when you really redefine a house and that it should have basic characteristics. Sometimes people are not willing to move as their workplace is close to where they live. For example, houses were built and the slum was moved in Kalyanpuri. But later on, they were sold because of the distance.

Tenability is a major issue. For example, in Delhi, there are about 15-18 authorities that are holding one kind of land or the other. They are public bodies. There is a lot of resistance. So, land will become a major issue. Institution building is all right if tenability is there. When there is a problem of tenure, then you have a limited tenure of 15 or 25 years. But then, the question is, whether to invest money on the structure. The legal system needs to be changed.

What about slum rehabilitation? It is a big issue?

Kumar: Yes, which is why in the PMAY, the issue of slums has been addressed in a comprehensive way because it does not impose the responsibility for the development of slums on the government or the public sector only. We have also made an arrangement where the private sector could also participate on the basis of positive premium — how they could benefit from rehabilitating slums. We have achieved success in Gujarat and Maharashtra in this regard.

We believe that slum redevelopment is not meant to just give access to facilities to the people living there but also to make cities a worthwhile place to live.

Krishna: We have to look at the statistics on the requirement of housing in the country; it is a desirable goal. As per the census, at a gross level, we have a shortage of 2 million houses. In addition, the census described 13 million houses as dilapidated, not suitable for living. So, if we say that those must be demolished, then people should be given new houses elsewhere.

So, we need 15 million houses urban and rural put together. We can divide between rural and urban, but I find this division illogical. We should move holistically and design programmes for different cities, mega cities, villages, large villages.

We have got a problem of vacant houses. The census says there are 2.5  crore vacant houses. This is far more than the dilapidated houses and the shortfall put together. The country is not making use of vacant inventories. So, we should bring a mechanism to encourage people to make their houses better rather than giving them a new unit because the poor are reluctant to leave their houses.

Abhijat: The overall problem of vacant houses or houses under construction is present and it is also a legacy issue. The ministry is working on getting these ready or occupied. We have achieved some success.The validated demand that states have put up stands at 1 crore today from 1.87 billion. The ministry also incorporates the fact that under the PMAY, the occupancy is much higher than earlier. The reason is, it is an evolved scheme. Now, we are not only making multi-storeyed structures but also doing beneficial construction, which is a very important vertical and where we have approved about 28-29 lakh individual houses.

Migration is a real problem for rural areas. How do you plan to fix this? Do you find the target achievable for rural areas?
Kumar: Going by the statistics, we need 2.95 crore houses in the rural areas under ‘housing for all’. The number of houseless people is less than a few lakhs. So, we are categorising these beneficiaries. This is our criteria for classification of rural kaccha houses because under ‘housing for all’, we are constructing pucca houses for them. Unlike the urban area, under the Grameen PMAY, the beneficiaries construct the house and the financial assistance being given has been increased from Rs 70,000 to Rs 120,000 in the plains and from Rs 70,000 to Rs 130,000 in hilly and difficult areas. Then MNREGA standards are there. Swachh Abhiyan beneficiaries are also given Rs 12,000 to construct toilets and the Ujwala scheme beneficiaries get LPG connections. This is the model that we are opting.

We will go through the SECC list, wherein 4.03 crore households were found to be potential beneficiaries. Since the list was made in 2011 and the PMAY came in 2016, there was a gap of five years. So, we got the gram sabhas to decide these ground realities and we ent ahead with their help. We are targeting 2.95 crore houses and the target for construction in the first phase is 1 crore houses in three years.

Our average pace of construction is 10-12 lakh houses per year but it has picked up. We completed 44.54 lakh houses in 2017. It was 34.18 lakh in 2016 and 18 lakh in 2015. So, we are confident that we would able to achieve our targets.

How about the progress on the urban front?
Abhijat: We have sanctioned 51.10 lakh houses, which is a little more than half. Almost 34 lakh houses have been grounded – either the construction work has started or is in the process of starting. Of this, about 8 lakh houses have been completed. As compared to the rural areas, urban houses take longer because details such as conformity to the National Building Code, structural design and the issue of providing infrastructure with other missions or amenities such as roads and sewage have to be taken into account, and structurally it should match the requirement. The beneficial construction has been faster.

Do you believe that housing for all by 2022 is really achievable?
Gupta: It is definitely achievable and what is going on is really good. Yet certain fundamentals have to be kept in mind. For example, the main issue here is slums. As per the census, there is hardly any change in slums. In fact, the population of slums has grown from 5.2 crore in 2001 census to 6.5 crore in the 2011 Census. The number of notified slums has grown from 1,743 in 2001 to 2,630 in 2011. Lakhs of houses were built and distributed, but slums remain.

The local governments’ need to relocate at ground level is also important. The problem is we relocate slums and build houses but either they move out or sell them. I have seen rich and well-off people in Gurugram living in EWS complex and the houses are sold as soon as the prohibition period of transaction gets over. The problem is not facilities but connectivity. The second issue is very critical — rental houses. There are a lot of people who are living in slum-type houses. The census says that the ownership of slums is 70 per cent or so. I don’t accept that. Slums are mostly on public land, how can ownership come? Problem of rental housing is very critical and a necessity in our country and that has to be appreciated and pursued.

What are your views on the vision for ‘housing for all’?
Jyoti Parikh: We have already heard about slums but I would also go into low-cost housing and affordable housing. There is a continuous process of upgrading the houses from kaccha houses where floor, wall, roof are kaccha. Then you make one floor pucca but the other two are not. So, that is one transformation.

I would like to add the climate change component as well. The heat stress is increasing, so we need to have cool houses with cool roofs. Now, cool roofs allow for proper ventilation and overcome excess heat. We should be looking at the wind pattern and air circulation while building houses.

Abhijat: I would like draw attention to the 51 lakh houses that have been sanctioned. So far, about 8 lakh houses are being made with the new technology. The ministry has conceived a ‘global housing challenge’, and we are inviting all the innovative technologies that exist in the world. And we are not just inviting but ask them to use that technology in certain areas depending on the geo-climatic regions.

Also, we would be introducing it in the curriculum, in the training mechanism and setting up of the incubation centres so this carries forward and does not become a one-of thing.

Who are the beneficiaries?

Gupta: All are, in one way or the other, benefitting from the programme to the extent that the programme has progressed. The real issue is ‘abadi’ types of land where ownership is the major problem. The banks want some kind of a security. But they cannot give it because there is multiple ownership, they cannot upgrade it because there are multiple people like grandsons, greatgrandsons who have become owners. That is a major issue.

To expect that the ‘housing for all’ target would be achieved is only indicative that these programmes are of extreme importance and public authorities ought to take these things seriously. However, to say that the target would be achieved overnight or by 2022 would be a wrong way of assessing the whole thing.

How different is the transformative vision compared to the vision of the earlier government?
Abhijat: The ministry continues to be the same and we will like to look at it as government of India’s efforts. The mistakes that we may have committed earlier as a ministry or as a government has now been amended and we keep evolving as we go along. State governments also contribute in a very big way. Of course, it varies from state to state. But there are certain state governments that are giving more than 30 sq m and they ensure that it is very dignified and people live properly. These are the learnings. Earlier, under such schemes, we could go for 10-12 lakh houses. In about 10 years, we have been able to sanction 51 lakh houses. We are in the process of doing even more as construction is faster. But we would like to see it as a continuing effort of the ministry.

What is your view of the rural development mission?
Kumar: We have talked about the transformational changes but now I would like to tell the difference. Earlier, the targets were subject to the availability of funds. Now, we have clear-cut targets that we have to construct 2.95 crore houses by 2022 and 1 crore houses by 2019. In case we have given States target of 100 units, we will provide fund for 100. Direct Benefit Transfer has also a big role to play. All these measures have led to the reduction in completion time.
We did a study with NIPFP and they have reported that on average, it was taking 314 days earlier to complete but now under the PMAY, it is taking just 114 days. There is a reduction of almost 200 days. We are also paying attention to climate issues.

Ms Parikh, what are your views on the discussion?
Parikh: Technical standards need to be improved and there is room for every material, room for every type of technology and we should expand the portfolio. ACs are no longer a luxury item, people even in small places also buy coolers. It is a human need where body can only tolerate 35-37 degrees. So, one has to recognise that it is vital to bring about a change in construction practices and generate more expertise in jobs to address various types of situations.