In August 2017, Babaram Bhagne (53), a helper at an automobile spare parts shop in Nana Peth, was among the 40,000 hopefuls from economically weaker families who had given applications to claim low cost homes being built under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) in Pune city.
In October 2020, he was among the happy club of 2,918 applicants who were declared ‘winners’ to get the homes being built by Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) with assistance from private builders at five different locations in the city.
Two months later, he is one of the 2,187 individuals who have decided to let go of this ‘opportunity’. On Monday, PMC’s PMAY (U) cell posted a list of new ‘winners’ from the waiting list who will now have a chance to lay claim over the homes that remained unclaimed in the first round.
“On the day our name was announced in the lottery, we were told to pay up Rs 1.02 lakh (10 per cent of the total price of the apartment) within a month. I had no income from March to October 2020 as the automobile shop I work for was shut due to the lockdown. It was extremely difficult for me to arrange the sum within such a short time,” said Bhagane, who presently stays in a rented home in Sukhasagar with wife, a son and a daughter. He said that getting a housing loan for payment of the total cost (pegged at Rs 9.67) lakh was difficult due to break in employment.
But that wasn’t the only reason he let go of the home offer. “At 350 square feet carpet area, the apartment is too small for my family. My son has finished his graduation this year and very soon we will start thinking about his marriage. Once our family expands, this house will be too tiny for us. Hence, we thought and decided that instead of taking a loan to pay for this small flat, we will wait for an opportunity to buy a bigger home once my son starts earning,” said Bhagane.
The houses are being built for economically weaker sections (EWS) under Affordable Housing in Partnership (AHP) component of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban). Under this component, the central and state assistance is provided to housing projects where 35 per cent homes are reserved for EWS customers and are made available to them at an affordable rate.
Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) had announced eight projects under AHP in August 2017 and has also invited applications from EWS families. Of these, five projects progressed and in October 2020 PMC drew lotteries to determine the beneficiaries who would get the opportunity to buy low cost 2,918 apartments from the pool of 40,000 applications that it had received.
The five housing projects are located in Hadapsar, Survey No. 106A (340 homes), Kharadi (786), Vadgaon Khurd (1108), Hadapsar, Survey No.89 (584), and Hadapsar, Survey No.106A12 (100). Each dwelling unit is a 1BHK (bedroom, hall & kitchen) apartment with a carpet area of about 350 square feet.
As per officials at PMC’s PMAY(U) Cell, not all allottees who didn’t lay their claim over the homes found the offer unattractive or were not able to pay up the booking amount. “We had accepted the applications in 2017 and the lottery was drawn full three years later in October 2020. Many may have changed the contact numbers and did not get our messages. Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown, many may have also moved out of the city and did not see lists of the winners published in the newspapers. We were receiving calls and personal visits of such people after November 23 but we could not consider their requests as it would have been unjust to those in the waiting list,” said Dinesh Rokade, Joint-Director for PMAY(U) implementation in PMC areas.
Financial incapability, however, remains a recurring theme among the allottees, including those who have laid a claim and paid up the first installment. “It’s beyond my comprehension why they had to make the allottment in the thick of the lockdown,” said Satvashila Bhosale, a domestic worker who stays in Yerwada area. “My husband who worked in a Titan shop lost his job during the lockdown and now banks are refusing to give us a loan. We are in a big trouble since we don’t want to lose the money we have already paid,” she said.
To help the allottees secure a bank loan, the PMC has set up home-loan stalls in its premises where housing finance companies and loan consultancies are guiding the allottees with loan procedure and accepting applications if they find them eligible. “Problem with most of the allottees is that they already have borrowed from banks and have unpaid loans on their accounts. Most have very poor credit history. In fact, some of them availed personal loans to pay the first installment for PMAY home which reflects poorly on their financial health. This makes them very weak loan candidates,” said a DSA (direct selling agent) present at the spot.
Rokade said that the PMAY(U) cell at PMC is learning from its mistakes earlier and the future AHP projects (five of them are being planned) will take into accounts the issues faced by the allottees and make the allottment process quicker and more accessible to the EWS families.