At a time when data shows the accelerated pace of providing housing for all under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, both Urban and Gramin, The Wire published the article “‘Housing for All’ Means Nothing for India’s Migrant Workers” on February 11, 2018.
Low on Data
The problem with the article is that it does not offer any other data or hard, verifiable facts as such, but continues in the vein of reportage, apparently speaking to individuals from among the urban poor, i.e. migrant workers and their family members, and quoting them about the problems they face, especially with regard to housing. The only data that the article mentions is about the Union Budget committing the government to constructing 3.7 million houses in urban areas in fiscal 2018-19. That is as per the plans and targets under PMAY.
It is nobody’s case to deny urban poverty and the need for housing for all. The fact is that, this is precisely what the government recognised in announcing the PMAY programme with its targets. But to say that the housing for all scheme means little is more a matter of opinion than fact.
PMAY-U & Gujarat
It is rather ironic that this work of reportage is from Gujarat’s Ahmedabad. That is because Gujarat has arguably an impeccable record in providing houses to the urban poor under PMAY-U. In December 2015, Gujarat became the first state to take up Public-Private Partnership projects for the redevelopment of slums in urban areas under PMAY-U. By March 2017, Gujarat had built 25,873 houses, accounting for 32% of 82,048 houses built under PMAY-U.
The Scope of PMAY-U
More than 93 lakh houses have been built, for both the urban and rural poor, in the 3.5-year tenure of the present government. At the same time, under PMAY-U, an interest subvention of 6% is being provided to the urban poor.
If we look at the scope of the programme, we find the following:
- Slum rehabilitation of slum dwellers with the participation of private developers using land as a resource.
- Promotion of affordable housing for the weaker section through credit-linked subsidy.
- Affordable housing in partnership with public and private sectors.
- Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction.
Thus, slum dwellers and migrant workers have not been left out of the purview of PMAY-U, in fact, they are perhaps its central focus.
If we look at recent action by the government, we should recall that in December 2017, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) had cleared the construction of a further 5,45,090 affordable houses for the urban poor under PMAY-U. The investment factored in is to the tune of Rs 31,003 crore with Central assistance of Rs 8,107 crore. UInder the Beneficiary Led Construction (BLC) component of PMAY-U, the construction of 2,68,017 new houses was cleared at the same time.
In February 2018, this very month, the Ministry has approved the construction of a further 1,86,777 affordable houses for the urban poor under PMAY-U, helped by an investment of Rs 11,169 crore, with a Central assistance of Rs 2,797 crore. Again, under the BLC, construction of 1,08,095 new houses has been cleared.
The MoHUA has said that the larger goal is to fulfil the housing needs of the homeless urban poor and enable them to own decent pucca houses with basic infrastructure facilities by 2022. Based on demand assessment at the state level, India has the mammoth task of constructing about 12 million houses under the EWS/LIG segment of society in order to achieve the goal of Housing for All.
After final approval from the Central Sanctioning and Monitoring Committee (CSMC), the cumulative figure for the number of houses under PMAY-U would be 37,83,392, while by incorporating the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) projects, the total number of houses funded by PMAY-U would be 39,25,240.
Therefore, it seems from the facts and data above that the PMAY-U scheme is progressing steadily and fresh approvals are consistently increasing the number of houses to be built.
The Focus on Slums & Migrants
Since The Wire seems to look at slums when referring to migrant labourers, it needs to be noted here that even before the advent of PMAY-U, the current government had placed sharp focus on slum development under the erstwhile RAY.
In October 2014 itself, the then Minister of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation had stated that the emphasis would be on “proper urban planning to ensure ‘slum free India’ in the long run. The government is focusing on ‘in-situ’ development of slums by encouraging vertical construction. Slum dwellers are entitled to ‘not only a roof over their heads but also, a safe and healthy environment, affordable transport and energy, safe and clean drinking water, employment and empowerment.”
Thus, in terms of both data and intent, there hardly seems to be any ground for alleging that PMAY is offers nothing to India’s urban poor, especially migrant workers, that it leaves out certain sections of society. What we have presented above includes the statistics. While it is true that the ground situation may naturally vary from one state to another, one city to another, and even one locality to another, the scheme of PMAY-U cannot be dismissed by citing such variable and locally specific ground conditions. To judge whether PMAY-U is really helping the urban poor or not, we would need the overall picture – and that comprehensive picture is what the facts and data above provide.