Taking the idea of the Centre’s rural employment scheme for creating sustainable rural assets a step further, the Maharashtra government is set to dovetail its rural housing scheme with the National Rural Employment Generation Act (NREGA). The final draft housing policy has also brought rural housing under the purview of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), which until now had been mainly concerned with construction of housing in urban areas.
The draft policy states that NREGA grants will be available for making payments to the labour force for constructing houses, in rural areas, up to 25 square metre (269 square feet) especially for those belonging to the economically weaker sections and low-income groups.
In case the size of the house exceeds the set limit, the extra cost will be borne by the beneficiary.
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The policy drafted by the state housing department is awaiting the feedback of elected representatives and is expected to be released by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, once it is fine-tuned.
The state government’s attempts to link the NREGA with rural housing is in keeping with the union Rural Development Department’s (RDD) year-old notification on creation of individual assets for vulnerable sections. It allowed for expanding the purview of NREGA to include “unskilled wage component in construction of houses sanctioned under the Indira Awas Yojana or such other state or central government scheme”.
It had estimated the period required to construct a 20-square-metre-house as 90 days in a plain area and 95 days in hilly areas. The guidelines, however, gave state governments the leeway to frame their own estimates. NREGA guarantees 100 days of employment in a year.
“Currently, funding for housing in villages of Maharashtra comes from two schemes, the tribal department department’s Shabari Yojana and RDD’s Indira Awas Yojana. We are now saying that the state Housing department will get involved in rural housing,” said S S Zende, MHADA vice-president-CEO.
While the draft policy cites the National Housing Bank (NHB) data for 2012-13 on the estimated urban housing shortage of 1.94 million houses in Maharashtra, it states that figures are not available on the lack of shelter in rural areas that account for 55 per cent of the state’s population.
MHADA will have to come up with the numbers, through a survey, within six months of the policy being enforced. Thereafter, all the schemes implement with support from the central government will be brought under one umbrella and MHADA will be entirely in charge of implementation. “Until now, MHADA’s role has been limited to areas governed by urban local bodies,” said Zende.
The draft policy lays stress on generation of affordable housing, especially for the unorganised sector through procurement of government and private seasonal agricultural land for rural housing, faster permissions for construction and government provision of infrastructure. It recommends the adoption of a model similar to that in Andhra Pradesh. For disbursal of grants, the order of priority will homeless families who owns no plots, families that do not own plots and live in kachcha houses, families in kachcha house built on their own plots, those living in dilapidated houses and families living in rental homes.