Housing for all: Centre delivers on pace, but quality is the caveat

Women individually or jointly own nearly 72% of the houses built under the scheme, against the national rate of 43% reported by the 2019-21 National Family Health Survey.
Women individually or jointly own nearly 72% of the houses built under the scheme, against the national rate of 43% reported by the 2019-21 National Family Health Survey.


  • The rural-housing scheme has progressed rapidly, particularly between FY20 and FY22. But this speed could also haunt the government, with the quality of homes coming under question.

The welfare theme of the first decade of this century was centred around the Congress-led government's efforts to deliver basic essentials such as education, healthcare and jobs. In contrast, the Narendra Modi government’s pitch has been the targeted provisioning of goods, with women and those from the scheduled castes and tribes (SC/ST) making it big in the beneficiary club. 

As the ruling party seeks to use these successes to remain in power, here’s an analytical look at another policy move in the fourth and final part of our series: the rural housing scheme.

The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin) (PMAY-G) came into being in 2016 as a repackaged and expanded version of the Congress-era Indira Awaas Yojana. Retaining its predecessor’s inclusion goals, PMAY-G earmarked 60% of its national-level targets of pucca houses to be built for those from SC/ST households. So far it has managed to provide state-funded houses to around 11.4 million such households, which form about 22% of India’s 53 million rural SC/ST households (Socio-Economic Caste Census, 2011), according to an analysis of data on the scheme’s dashboard.

Moreover, women individually or jointly own nearly 72% of the houses built under the scheme, against the national rate of 43% reported by the 2019-21 National Family Health Survey.

Read this: Much of rural India now has taps, but running water largely remains a pipe dream

The government is banking on the loyalty of such ‘labharthis’ (beneficiaries) as a potential ‘x-factor’, even as questions remain over whether this reduces the electorate to a passive recipient of state largesse.

Mid-term spurt

A Mint analysis of the last seven years of data for PMAY-G (2017-18 to 2023-24), spanning both terms of the government, indicates the scheme was starkly back-loaded. Of the sanctioned 25.3 million houses in this period, 22 million have been built. Striking, nearly 68% of them were built in just three years —2019-20 to 2021-22 – and the pace has been slow in the past two fiscal years.

The scheme provides financial assistance of 1.2 lakh for building a house in plains and 1.3 lakh in hilly areas, with the onus of construction lying with the beneficiary. Beneficiaries can also avail of up to 95 person-days of unskilled labour wages under the rural jobs guarantee scheme during the construction period, and a loan up to 70,000 from financial institutions to aid the construction. It had aimed to build 29.5 million pucca houses by March 2022, with the targets set annually; the deadline was later extended to March 2024.

Also read: The dichotomies that define India’s rural jobs promise

As a centrally sponsored scheme, the union government and states share the cost in a 60:40 ratio (90:10 in northeast and Himalayan states). Over 2.5 trillion was released by the Centre during the period of analysis, making up 23.7% of the total expenditure of the ministry of rural development.

Quality gaps

The lopsided pace is also visible in the faster completion of key stages of construction in the second half of the Modi government's tenure. The scheme’s guidelines state that the construction of houses should be completed within 12 months from the date of sanction. While on an average it took about a year (356 days) between 2016-17 and 2018-19 to clear the three hoops (administrative, financial and actual construction), it took around 193 days to do so in the past three fiscal years, showed government data.

The average construction time shrank from 242 days to around 150 days (five months) during this period. This could pose some doubts about the quality of houses being built.

Also read: Rural roads scheme achieves aim but is riddled with speed-breakers

A performance review by a Parliamentary panel, tabled in March 2023, had also raised questions about the lack of monitoring of quality at various stages of construction. This was necessary because houses built under PMAY-G were going to be used for a long time, the panel said. The government said in its response that geo-tagged photographs were being captured at different stages of construction to review the quality.

A deeper look at the state-wise implementation reveals a mixed picture. Large and relatively under-developed states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have managed to meet the rural development ministry’s targets since 2017-18. Yet, despite higher available central assistance, north-eastern states have been lagging, with Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland able to achieve up to just a fourth (25%) of the ministry’s house-construction targets.

Way ahead

The government has said it aims to achieve 100% ‘saturation’ of its welfare schemes—four of which we analysed through data in this series. This calls for a look at a bigger question that's at play: will this model lose its sheen among the electorate and see returns diminish over time? With many basic safety nets taken care of in the form of subsidised houses, cooking gas, bank accounts and the like, will voters seek more than handouts? The signs are already visible in the current election cycle, with murmurs of discontent around employment and stagnant incomes. The winner of these polls has its task cut out: chalk out a new-age welfarist agenda for India.

This is the concluding piece in a four-part data journalism series on the progress of welfare schemes. The previous parts analysed data on MGNREGS, Jal Jeevan Mission, and the rural roads scheme. Also read our pre-election report card in the eight-part Election Pitch series here.

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