New Delhi: At the current pace, it may take a long while for the government to come good on its promise of building houses for the poor in areas reeling under violence from left-wing extremists, known as Naxalites.
Housing woes: Less than 1% of the target set under the Indira Awas Yojana has been met; mere 1,595 houses complete vs 314,598 targeted. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
Less than 5% of the additional funds allocated in early 2009 under a special housing scheme for 33 Naxalite-affected districts across eight states has been utilized so far, according to figures available with the Union ministry of rural development.
Less than 1% of the housing target has been met.
The ministry said the figures could be old, while an expert blamed the delay on 2009 being a “difficult year” for the administration.
Under the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), a scheme to build houses for the rural poor, the Union government allocated an additional Rs825.82 crore to eliminate housing shortage by building 314,598 houses in these districts. The states contribute the remaining 25% of the total allocation of Rs1,032.27 crore for the scheme.
But only Rs43.54 crore of the sum has been utilized and a mere 1,595 houses have been completed, according to the data received by the ministry until October.
The ministry has only released its first instalment of Rs412.91 crore—or half its total allocation—because of the tardy progress.
But a senior ministry official says the states may have used more funds without updating the central department.
“We have received proposals for second instalments from six of the eight states, which means they must have utilized 60% of the first instalment,” said Nilam Sawhney, joint secretary, rural housing.
Sawhney added that building houses in Naxalite-affected parts required more meticulous initial planning compared with other rural areas, as well as a careful selection of villages in which to build the houses.
“It might take some time to take off. But once it does, it won’t take much time and will be completed smoothly,” she said.
These funds are in addition to Rs275.26 crore allocated towards the end of 2008 for the construction of 104,866 houses to clear up shortage in Naxalite-hit areas, as determined by the 2001 census.
The census had revealed a shortage of 472,846 houses in Naxalite-affected districts. It identified 10 districts in Jharkhand, seven in Chhattisgarh, six in Bihar, five in Orissa, two in Maharashtra and one each in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh
Another senior official at the ministry of rural development said resistance by Maoist rebels slowed work.
“In Naxal-affected belts, rebel activity does affect work,” the official said. “And if you see the kind of government work the Naxals allow and those that they resist, you get an idea of their agenda. For instance, they will oppose any form of infrastructure creation like housing, roads, etc., but will allow schemes like NREGS to get implemented.”
NREGS is short for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme that promises 100 days of work every year to at least one member of every poor rural family.
According to the data sheet at the ministry, while 1,595 houses have been completed, 35,392 have been sanctioned and 40,039 are under construction. Among the houses that have been completed, 724 are in Maharashtra and the rest in Orissa.
“These funds were allocated a little before the Lok Sabha elections last year,” Sawhney said, referring to the April-May polls.
“The model code of conduct came into effect right after and was applicable till May. So work could actually begin only in May. Hence the slight delay,” Sawhney added.
The Election Commission’s model code of conduct prohibits the government from launching welfare schemes just before elections as these may skew voter preference.
Saibal Gupta, a Bihar-based development and political analyst, said 2009 had been a tough year and that could have slackened the pace of work.
“There were floods. Then, later, drought was the main agenda. There was a long period of parliamentary elections. There were also several by-elections. All these might have delayed allocation and implementation, although if the progress has been slow it is not good for the relevant department,” he said.