Updated: February 4, 2021 10:03:23 pm
The Surat Urban Development Authority (SUDA) has decided to provide nearly 400 houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) on rent to migrant workers in a bid to keep them anchored to the city in times of crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic when lakhs of them fled to their home states, with no income to make ends meet.
The proposal to convert 396 houses built under the PMAY (urban), and lying vacant in the Sachin GIDC area, to the Affordable Rental Housing Scheme has recently been approved by the Union Ministry of Urban Affairs and Housing, Surat Municipal Commissioner B N Pani, who is also the incharge chairman of SUDA, confirmed to this paper. The ARHC is a sub-scheme of the PMAY announced last year, and Surat will be the first to be implementing it.
Pani said, “The houses under Affordable Rental Housing Schemes will be ready in the next couple of months and it will be allotted to the migrant workers to prevent reverse migrations. We are the first in the country to have converted houses under PMAY to Affordable Rental Housing Scheme”.
He further said that a private agency Shripad Conchem pvt. Ltd has been designated for allotting the houses. Under the ministry guidelines the ARHC scheme can be either implemented by a Public Private partnership or by the public authority.
“We have also talked to the textile industry people that if they want to construct houses for the migrant workers nearby their factory, SMC will be ready to give certain relaxations in the FSI and other taxes”, Pani said
The city employs nearly 15 lakh migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand in its textile and diamond industries which powers the city’s economy.
These labourers stay in a rented premises sharing rooms with other labourers in the colonies to reduce the expenses of house rent. The SUDA plans to let out the houses on at least half the rental rates they would pay to private landlords.
Earlier during plague in the 1990s and recently after the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, large number of migrant labourers had returned to their native states.
However after resumed operations, started post unlock, several industries faced labour shortage and had to send contractors to convince the labourers to return. Some even sent luxury buses, and also sponsored railway tickets and air ticket fares to the workers.
The SUDA appointed Shripad Conchem Pvt Ltd, in December last year, to ready the houses for allotment. The agency will bear operation and maintenance costs for 25 years.
One of the directors of Shripad Conchem company, Dhaval Shah told this paper , “At present final touch is being given to the houses and it will be finished in next couple of months. The houses will have one bedroom, hall, kitchen, and the rent varies from Rs 3,500-4000. We have contacted the textile industry associations and also we are ready to give houses to the walking in migrant workers, once the houses are made ready.”
The proposal has materialised also because of representations made by South Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SGCCI) vice-president Ashish Gujarati to the SMC commissioner to make arrangements for the EWS houses for the migrant labourers.
Gujarati said, “In our representations, we have said that if the houses are given to the migrant workers, they will call their family members and stay with them in Surat city and during natural calamities they will not go back to their native place.”
Textile labour union president Kamran Usmani said, “We welcome the initiative taken by SUDA … During the Covid-19 pandemic, we faced great difficulties in bringing back the labourers from UP, Bihar and Odisha. We wish that SUDA should construct more such houses as the migrant workers are large in numbers.”
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