Housing for All? Little scope for the poorer sections to take advantage of government schemes

unnamed (5)By Bilal Khan*

‘Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Housing for All’ (PMAY-HFA) is one of the schemes started by Prime Minister Modi that has raised high hopes among urban poor living in informal settlements in major cities of India. As the name of the scheme suggests, it claims to provide housing to each needy person by the year 2022. However, a deeper study of the guidelines of the scheme would reveal that whether the needy persons will get the benefits of the scheme or not. The scheme has four major verticals through which the government seeks to solve the problem of housing faced by urban poor in cities. They are:

  1. Slum rehabilitation of slum dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource.
  2. Promotion of affordable housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy.
  3. Affordable housing in partnership with public and private sectors.
  4. Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction.

Let us understand each vertical one by one in the ambit of the guidelines of the scheme. The first vertical of the scheme will apply to those major slums which are built on government land having a high market value. A private builder will be selected for redeveloping the slum in-situ. The eligible slum dwellers will get a free house under this vertical in lieu of their slum structure. One portion of the land will be used to construct the rehabilitation building while another portion of the land will be given to builder to make profit out of it. In this arrangement, only those slum dwellers will get the alternate tenement in lieu of their structure who are eligible.

The eligibility will be decided on the basis of ‘cut-off-date’ which will be proved by certain documentary proofs possess by the structure holder in the slum respecting the cut-off-date. State governments will decide their own cut-off-date. Now, a needy person who cannot respect the cut-off-date will not get the alternate tenement in the rehabilitation building even if that person is poorer than the one who has respected the cut-off-date. Why this discrimination? Why not every needy structure holder in the slum get the benefit of alternate tenement in the rehabilitation building? Where will these people go? Who will get these evicted persons a house?

Let us see if the person dis-housed due to the first vertical of the scheme has any chance to get an alternate tenement under the remaining vertical of the scheme. The second vertical of the scheme provide for interest subvention for a home loan. The government will provide an interest subvention of 6.5% per annum for a loan up to Rs 6 lakh for a period of 15 years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year on 30th December while addressing the country apparently announcing the end of ‘demonetising era’, tried to woo the urban poor by introducing two new categories of income level to get interest subsidy. As per the two new categories, people earning Rs 12 lakh per annum will get 4 per cent interest subsidy on a loan amount of Rs 9 lakh, and the Rs 18 lakh per annum income category will get a 3 per cent subsidy on a loan amount of Rs 12 lakh. The period of loan repayment for these two categories will be 20 years.

Now, let us take the case of the people who will not be held eligible for a free alternate tenement under the first vertical. We assume that these ineligible people will try for a home loan to buy a house under the ‘affordable housing segment’. An ‘affordable house’ will not cost nothing less than Rs 10 lakh in major cities like Delhi-Mumbai. Suppose a person get a loan of Rs 10 lakh and the government waive all the interest on the loan for the full amount removing the limit of Rs 6 lakh and the loan repayment is to be made in a period of 15 years, then an EMI would be made more than Rs 5000 per month. Add a maintenance charge of Rs. 1500 per month of living in a building. A total of Rs 6500 will be spent in EMI and maintenance every month. What if those people who were held ineligible in the first vertical turns out to be Below the Poverty Line? A BPL family earns not more than Rs 2250. How will these BPL family spent Rs. 6500 per month if their monthly income is only Rs  2250? The possibility of getting a loan will finish straight away if they don’t own up a land to be mortgaged for a loan.

There is no scope for an ineligible BPL landless family to get a housing in any of the above two verticals of PMAY. Let us examine if it possible to get a housing in the remaining two verticals. The third vertical provide for promotion of affordable housing of in a housing project having minimum 250 housing units. 35% housing will be reserved for Economically Weaker Section (earning up to Rs 3lakh per annum) in such housing projects. Beneficiary will get a Central assistance of Rs 1.5lakh per house. If we are considering Rs. 10 lakh as the cost of a housing in this segment in a city like Delhi or Mumbai then the beneficiary will have to pay the remaining Rs 8.5 lakh by deducting R. 1.5 lakh from Rs 10 lakh. If we suppose that the beneficiary will opt for a loan then the government will provide interest subsidy for the loan amount of Rs. 6 lakh and remaining amount will be repaid at the non-subsidized interest rate. If no interest is charged from the beneficiary, the EMI will again come amount Rs 5000 for a 15 years period loan. Now, again how will a BPL landless family will afford this loan?

Finally examine the case of the landless BPL family in the fourth vertical. The guidelines for the fourth vertical says that “the fourth component of the mission is assistance to individual eligible families belonging to EWS categories to either construct new houses or enhance existing houses on their own to cover the beneficiaries who are not able to take advantage of other components of the mission.” This sounds as if government is really concerned about providing house to urban poor. This vertical applies to those who already own a legal house and additional assistance will be provided to repair or enhance the house. But when a BPL landless person has been dishoused already, how will this vertical help this person? Is this not the mockery of the misery that a person will face after being dishoused due to PMAY?

Another major drawback of this scheme is that there is no involvement of a non-state actors (NGOs) to ensure transparent and non-discriminatory implementation of the scheme. The absence of this provision sets a blueprint of a massive corruption.

There are large number of people living in major cities of India who do not possess any assets to be mortgaged to bank to get a home loan or to be capable of paying monthly EMI. These people live in slums which are regarded as illegal settlements. These settlements see unchecked eviction without the provision of alternate housing. PMAY is silent about the rehabilitation of pavement dwellers, those residing adjacent to big drainage, water pipeline, on forest land, in areas marked as CRZ and so on. The people living in these settlements are simply branded as ‘encroachers’ and that’s what make government get rid of its responsibility to ensure housing to urban poor which is basic human need. By commodifying a basic service like housing, we are denying a needy person of his/her right to housing which has been recognised as part and parcel of ‘right to life’ by the Supreme Court of India.

Recently, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing has presented a report based on her visit to India last year to UN Human Right Council. One of the recommendations of the report calls for a national law in India to ensure ‘right to housing’. Now, India need a practical law/policy to solve the problem of housing and protect the housing rights of needy persons but not a scheme merely serving as a ‘jumla’. One important thing we have to take into account while talking about the housing problem of urban poor. Whenever there is an eviction, it is not only a house that an urban poor loses but with that the source of livelihood gets majorly affected. Hence, while ensuring someone an alternate tenement, it is the responsibility of the government to make sure that the rehabilitated person/family should also get an alternate livelihood making sure a decent living standard. PMAY is totally silent about it.

*With Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan. Contact: bilalgbgba@gmail.com

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