New Delhi: The Union ministry of rural development, which spent Rs12,411 crore in the past four years to build around 6.5 million homes for the country’s rural poor under a Union government-funded scheme, has said it doesn’t maintain a database of the beneficiaries.
Right to shelter: A village in Andhra Pradesh. Many among India’s rural poor are yet to benefit from government housing schemes. Photograph: Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
Under the Indira Awas Yojana, or IAY, launched in 1985, the Union government funds 75% of the cost of construction of a rural home and the states contribute the rest. Thus far, it has helped build homes for 18 million so-called below the poverty line, or BPL, families across the country.
The answer to a query by Mint under the Right to Information, or RTI, Act showed that while the ministry had data on the amount spent and the number of homes built in each district, it couldn’t provide the details of the beneficiaries in four years.
It, however, pointed out that the names and addresses of IAY beneficiaries are available with district rural development agencies or ‘gram sabhas’ (village councils) in its reply to the RTI application..
IAY funds are administered by these district development agencies and the Central government releases the money in two tranches. The first tranche is given at the beginning of every financial year, provided the local agency had claimed funds for the previous year, and the second tranche is released after six months.
While the ministry receives monthly progress reports on the number of homes constructed, it neither maintains a list of beneficiaries nor photographic evidence of houses having been built, said a rural development ministry official who didn’t wish to be named.
“Although field inspections are done, a database is necessary to ensure a foolproof system,” the official said. “We are now trying to develop a central database, but are yet to identify the right software for the project.”
Rural development ministry secretary Rita Sharma was unavailable for comment.
Kerala’s finance minister Thomas Isaac said the Central government ought to maintain a database in order to plug leakages. “There are some states that require a stringent monitoring in order to ensure that the money is not misappropriated.” He said that Kerala had a sound housing scheme, which used funds from IAY.
A Planning Commission official said maintaining a central database would be difficult because the number of beneficiaries of IAY is huge. “The states don’t submit photographic evidence of the houses built and that certainly raises problems of transparency,” the official said, requesting anonymity. “The solution, however, is to enhance the (current) system and not to adopt centralized monitoring. After all, there are only a few officers here to monitor the scheme.”
RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal said housing for the poor should be left entirely to the states to ensure proper monitoring of schemes.
“Developmental works such as housing should be totally left to the states. You cannot have the Central government designing these programmes as they are unable to monitor these programmes properly,” he said. “The lag in these programmes is precisely because the money comes from the Centre and the states are expected to monitor (them).”