By Rajiv Shah
A new study on the implementation of one of the major policy initiatives for the urban poor by the Narendra Modi government after coming to power, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), said that in Gujarat, which is to be the residence of the state’s prime minister, cited state officials as “confirming” that no progress toward regularizing tenure rights, a key requirement for providing housing for slum dwellers in the state .
Stating that this is particularly true for smaller towns, the study, carried out by the non-profit organization Homes in the City (HIC), based in Bhuj, capital of Kutch district which experienced an earthquake devastating in 2001, says the inability to provide affordable housing is there despite the fact that there has been “significant demand” in the 83 out of 153 Gujarat municipalities surveyed by the experts involved in the study.
According to the study, out of a total of 1.41 lakh housing applications under the Beneficiary Led Construction (BLC) category, 94,232 (66.7%) in September 2021 came from slums, while the rest came from non-slum areas. Of the four categories allowed by PMAY, BLC has proven to be the most attractive. The other three programs were the Credit Linked Subsidy Program (CLSS), In-Situ Slum Upgrading (ISSR), and Affordable Housing Partnership (AHP). All programs involved grants from central and state governments.
The study, titled “PMAY and Housing for All in Small and Medium Towns of Gujarat”, examines the implementation of PMAY in 1534 slums in 83 municipalities, of which the number of “tenable” slums is 1274 (83%), while that the others are “untenable”. The total number of households in these slums of Gujarat is 2,16,351, out of 90.7% are found to be eligible for benefits under the Indian government scheme.
Those involved in the study included Professor Amita Bhide, School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai; Ravi Sannabhadti, Professor, Planning and Public Policy, CEPT University, Ahmedabad; and Shehnaz Ansari, part of the advocacy group Human Development and Research Center (HDRC), Ahmedabad.
Launched in 2015 to provide “housing for all” by 2022, PMAY, a supply-side intervention, focused on increasing the supply of formal housing through the construction of more houses, either by the public sector or by the private sector. The study finds that although much housing work has been done under the PMAY, “most of it has been implemented in non-slum areas”, not only in Gujarat but across India. He insists: “So far, PMAY has failed to meet the needs of slum dwellers.”
Based on data provided by the Affordable Housing Mission (AHM), in September 2021, the study states that “none of the planned targets for slums in small and medium cities have been met”, which puts highlight “the failure of PMAY programs for small and medium towns”. Thus, under the BLC component of PMAY “was not able to provide houses to slum dwellers in small towns due to non-ownership of land with slum dwellers”. Thus, in September 2021, “only 522 houses were built in small and medium towns” in this category.
None of the planned targets for slums in small and medium towns have been achieved, highlighting the failure of PMAY
The study says that during the stakeholder consultation, participants from small towns insisted that the program for them was “financially unviable”. In fact, residents seemed reluctant to “move to apartment-style housing.” Apart from that, there was a lack of consultation with slum dwellers, and low expertise and low priority in setting up housing programs.
The study finds that slum dwellers cite ownership issues in houses built under earlier programs such as the Basic Services for the Urban Poor (BSUP) of the former Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM ). Those who received houses under the BSUP “still have not obtained the proper title for the houses”. Second, the residents were unwilling to move to a location far from their existing place of residence and work – which was notably in Porbandar.
The study finds that the current land rights framework in Gujarat is also a major impediment. Thus, “many slums in small towns in Gujarat are built on public land. It can be government wasteland or gauchar (pasture) land in many cases.” He says: “Currently, there is no comprehensive law in which land rights can be granted”, and the current resolution of the government (GR) for “is not suitable from the point of view of the resolution of the key issue”.
The study recommends, the Odisha model, with some modifications, could be adopted. Land rights should be allocated individually but after residents have formed a cooperative society, and land rights should be “inheritable, mortgageable and transferable (after a minimum period)”. This could be done after a “thorough survey of the slums, using thorough ground verification” and come up with a very irregular settlement layout if necessary, he adds.
Apart from that, according to the study, land up to 35 square meters “should be given free”, while beyond that “the value according to jantri should be charged”. To regulate this, “a facilitating agency should be involved in the process to ensure that the beneficiaries participate and follow all the instructions and the process that is set by the government”. To start, a pilot project “could be conducted in a district and implemented through a GR”.