Sunday, December 2, 2012
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The affordable dwellings plan for urban poor under JNNURM has gone awry

Housing remains  a major issue for Indian cities. While traditional city centre populations are moving to more affordable peripheral areas, the urban poor are forced to live in unhygienic slums lacking civic amenities. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) was launched in 2005 with the motive to improve infrastructure and governance in Indian cities which included provision of affordable housing to urban poor as one of its main objective. However, as is the wont of most government schemes, JNNURM is not reaching those in need, also been caught in the red tape, misuse of funds and exclusion of ineligible candidates making it to the beneficiaries' list.

An audit report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) points out these discrepancies. Of the 82 housing projects selected for audit scrutiny, 73 were found to be incomplete, seven had not even started and one was abandoned. Just one project was found to be complete and running.

Of the 82 housing projects under JNNURM selected for audit scrutiny, 73 were found to be incomplete, seven had not even started and one was abandoned. Just one project was found to be complete and running.

Authentication of beneficiaries

For the allotment of housing under JNNURM, total household survey of slums is essential prior to submission of a detailed project report. The selected beneficiaries should be willing to relocate and biometric cards need to be issued to them so that they don't sell the allotted house or squat elsewhere, a major lacunae with most slum rehabilitation schemes. These conditions were flouted with impunity at several housing projects turning the scheme meaningless.

An instance of how politicians can hijack a welfare scheme is the housing project at Imphal in Manipur where Rs 14.70 crore was spent on a household survey in 2007 but later beneficiaries recommended by MLAs and councillors were selected. The state government claimed that on account of urgency of submitting the project, such parallel action was taken and list was verified by a committee of officers. Similar was the situation at Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir. The state government constituted a committee in 2009 to verify the beneficiaries after two years of sanctioning of the project. However, no verification was done and the MC distributed Rs 1.22 crore to 407 unverified beneficiaries at the rate of Rs 30,000 per beneficiary. The MC clarified that this action was taken on instruction of higher authorities/political leaders. The second installment of Rs 0.90 crore was distributed among 300 beneficiaries on production of documents like ration card copy and income certificate but the document relating to title of land on which the tenement was to be constructed were not obtained in any case.

An instance of how politicians can hijack a welfare scheme is the housing project at Imphal in Manipur where Rs 14.70 crore was spent on a household survey in 2007 but later beneficiaries recommended by MLAs and councillors were selected.

At Kochi Phase II in Kerala, the beneficiaries of three colonies were municipal corporation employees with regular source of income and hence ineligible under JNNURM. In Lucknow and Ghazibad, both cities of Uttar Pradesh, the district authorities ordered allotment of 295 houses to beneficiaries other than those identified in the survey. The state government claimed that some of the original beneficiaries declined to relocate and these houses were allotted to residents of another slum. The fact that willingness of beneficiaries to relocate is a pre-requisite under JNNURM was evidently lost to the authorities.

At many places, the projects were undertaken even before identification of beneficiaries. Karaikol city, Puducheery, had as many as 432 tenements constructed without preparation of any beneficiary list. At Itanagar, the capital city of Arunachal Pradesh, no survey was conducted even after a go-ahead was given to the project. The State government gave an excuse that since primary survey was conducted in 2007-08, the same data will be updated. Ashiana II housing project, launched for urban poor in Shimla, selected 384 families as beneficiaries based on a survey of below poverty line (BPL) families done in 2004-05. The Municipal Committee did not do any survey before sanctioning of this project in 2007-08. At Ramnagara housing project in Karnataka, 1,800 houses are being built but only 444 beneficiaries had been identified.

Biometric identification, done to prevent ineligible candidates from deriving benefits of this scheme especially intended for the urban poor, was also not done in many cases. At Chennai, none of the 29,864 beneficiaries of three housing projects had been biometrically identified while at Patna phase IV, no biometric data of beneficiaries was collected. The state government claimed that since the scheme had not been taken up, the exercise was not necessary. However, the audit noted that project was sanctioned in 2007-08 and first installment of Rs 12 crore had also been released.

At Chennai, none of the 29,864 beneficiaries of three housing projects had been biometrically identified while at Patna phase IV, no biometric data was collected.

Incomplete houses

Houses will be incomplete unless there is necessary infrastructure including approach roads, community toilets etc. In Ahmedaguda, Hyderabad, 4,512 houses were completed and 3,809 handed over. However, audit found that only 1,255 houses were occupied by March 2011 because of a garbage dump yard in proximity. The Andhra Pradesh government claimed that by April 2012, situation had improved and occupancy was 1,700, but this is still dismally low. At Afzal Sagar, Hyderabad, only a narrow approach road was available which would make it difficult for ambulance, police van or fire engine to negotiate in case of emergency. In addition, there was seepage noticed in the ceilings of several houses.

In Maharashtra, 1,455 permanent transit shelters were constructed costing Rs 45.12 crore but they had not been put to use because several essential works, including water connections, were yet to be done. At Hazaribag, Jharkhand, Rs 19.83 crore project was approved in 2009 with duration of 15 months but not a single unit had been completed till March 2011. The audit team has also questioned the quality of dwelling units constructed under the scheme. At Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, approved carpet area was 25.39 square metre, which is much lower than the prescribed 14.79 square metre. The State government gave an excuse of fund shortage for such a modification. At Raipur and Bilaspur in Chattisgarh, low quality, rusted and underweight steel was used and the work executed was below standard with many deficiencies in quality of construction. In around five States/UTs, it was found that a major portion of completed dwelling units were yet to be alloted due to procedural delays.

Diversion of funds

In several areas, funds meant for housing were diverted to non-project purposes which were as varied as construction of a slaughter house, community toilets at a hospital, setting up of toll plaza, construction of cattle pond, purchase of equipment of a maternity centre, purchase of vehicles, preparation of detailed project reports and payment of consultation charges to project management consultant.

At Hyderabad, out of 49,000 houses constructed, 25,761 were allotted to Andhra Pradesh Housing Board and stated to have been completed under JNNURM. However, these had been taken up earlier and constructed under a state government scheme, Rajeev Gruha Kalpa (RGK) to be fully funded by the beneficiaries. Out of Rs 72.72 crore of JNNURM fund released to the housing board upto May 2010, Rs 32.78 crore was utilised for refunding the RGK beneficiaries, since their contribution under JNNURM was lower than RGK. These beneficiaries were economically sound and such construction of houses amounts to diversion of funds. The state government said it was done to reduce burden on beneficiaries but this clarification was not acceptable to the auditors.

As per JNNURM guidelines, beneficiaries have to contribute at least 12 per cent of the dwelling cost (10 per cent in case of SC/ST/Physically Handicapped and EWS). In several cases, this condition was either completely flouted or modified based on respective State /UT policies. At Kohima project in Nagaland, Rs 76,000 per beneficiary was to be collected but it was not done. At Chandigarh, Rs 800 per month will be collected over 20 years under Chandigarh Slum Rehabilitation Policy 2006 which is contrary to JNNURM guidelines. By adopting such a practice, the benefit of security of tenure will be delayed defeating the objective of JNNURM.

Read the full audit report

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