Housing for all, a far-fetched dream in India

Gadag Taluk

Manjulla, a 32-year-old resident of Hole-mannur village walks her way back carrying 10 buckets of water which would do for herself and her family for at least 3 days. She uses a wheeled cart to carry water from the main village to the quarters that the government had built for them after the raging Malaprabha river had brought their house down back in 2009.

“Our house got destroyed during the flood, since then we are living here, but we have to struggle for water and other facilities. There are no toilets and we have to walk long distance to defecate in open, even when we are sick,” sighs Manjulla.

Her family comprises of seven members; they manage to accommodate themselves in one small room. “The problem gets more acute during the monsoons when water enters the house which makes it difficult for us to sleep on the floor, monsoons are a nightmare,” added Manjulla

“There are around 20 houses which are still occupied for all the quarters constructed for hole-mannur village, people like them with no other options stay here,” she said

Ron taluk in Gadag district has been experiencing a situation where people have abandoned government settlements provided to them under Gramin Ashray Scheme, which was launched to accommodate the population who fell victim when Malaprabha River flooded devastating at least five major villages in the taluk.

Under the Gramin Ashray Scheme, villagers of five gram panchayats namely Amaragol, Hole-alur, hole-mannur, Menasgi and Yavagal were provided with government quarters to settle in. The settlements were aimed to improve standard of living of the villagers and secure them from the further devastation of the flood.

5, 514 government quarters were constructed to provide shelter to the villagers as informed. The quarters were planned to have basic facilities like proper electricity, toilets and rooms to accommodate at least a five-member family, but they started abandoning the settlements as their requirements were not met. If the officers of the local panchayats are to be trusted then more than 4, 000 quarters have been abandoned.

Riyaaz Kazi, a first division officer at Ron Taluk Panchayat informed, “People affected by the flood were beneficiaries of this scheme but as the Malaprabha came to a stable position, the people whose houses were least affected shifted there in the next year itself, but lately people from majorly affected houses are also vacating. Now more than 4000 houses remains unused.”

At least Rs. 80,000 was spent per house, he added.

The settlements were constructed mostly in secluded parts of the village, a highway passerby can easily spot these clustered houses constructed in a linear manner. Quarters lie abandoned with vegetation creeping on them, some are partly ruined, and some are probably broken down by poor local people to obtain bricks to sell in the market.

There have been major housing plans in the five year plans since 1951. Introduction of Indira Awas Yojana (now Pradhan Mantri GraminAwas Yojna)  in 1985 boosted the housing scene in rural India, catering to the housing needs for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), freed bonded laborers, minorities and non-SC/ST rural households in the BPL category.

Census states that in Ron Taluk 1, 23,563 are engaged in work activities out of total population of 2,64,123, 86.5 per cent of workers describe their work as Main Work (Employment or Earning more than 6 Months) while 13.5 per cent were involved in Marginal activity providing livelihood for less than 6 months.

Of 123,563 workers engaged in Main Work, 34,751 were cultivators (owner or co-owner) while 43,569 were Agricultural laborers.

 

Providing decent shelter has been a major challenge when it comes to rural India. Housing is a prerequisite for a secured society which rural India has been deprived of in several cases. The Census classifies housing into three categories:

  1. Good (Houses in good conditions, which requires no repairs.
  2. Livable ( Houses requiring minor repairs)
  3. Dilapidated (Houses which show signs of decay or those breaking down and requires major repairs and are far from being in condition that can be restored or repaired are considered as dilapidated)

Analytical Report On Houses, Household Amenities And Assets, a report compares data revealed by 2001 and 2011 census, which shows an increase of more than 30 per cent in the total number of houses in the country but the numbers of dilapidated houses have also surged by 26 per cent. The Census 2011 data also reflects the rural reality of the country showing that more than 82 per cent of dilapidated houses are situated in rural areas of the country.

To curb the issue, the government came up with several rural housing schemes providing free housing to people. The total number of houses has increased from 52.06 million to 78.48 million as per the 2011 census. Governments over the years have put huge resources to provide all with houses, but till date rural India is not secured when it comes to basic shelter.

Lack of proper housing also affects the demography of a region as homelessness makes people abandon the village to search of better living opportunities. The 2011 census shows that there are 10 million abandoned houses in the country, the question remains why are people abandoning houses provided to them by government or other institutions.

A report in Times of India has exposed the figures of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana as only 30 per cent of the targeted number of houses has been constructed in rural India and the situation is even poorer in the urban scenario as only 8 per cent of the targeted number of houses has been constructed.

PMAY was a premiere housing scheme but the numbers here evidently reflects how it has failed miserably in both urban and rural scenario.

Where is Government failing?

The Gramin Ashray Yojana here has failed its purpose as the government quarters could not retain the population and more than 70 per cent of the quarters are abandoned and government has no further plans about the quarters.

Y.B. Quri, a resident of Yaravenukoppa village says, “Those houses are more than five kms away from where my land is, if I stay there I will lose my land, and we are five people in our family, it’s not possible for us to accommodate in one small room.”

“Our house was devastated during the floods; we stayed in those quarters for more than a year, the conditions were worse than our own houses, the drinking water there had a stink and electricity was not available.” He added further.

Most people is the villages depend upon agriculture for their livelihood and majority of them own cattle and they prefer to stay with their cattle, so the houses where a family of five finds it tough to stay, the question of staying with cattle seems impossible. In a country where almost 70 per cent of the population resides in rural regions, the housing facilities devoted to them should address the actual problems.

According to some websites, housing schemes must meet these objectives:

1) Substantial improvements in the quality of life of the rural households.

2) Overall development of the personality of the rural family.

3) Facilitate provision of all basic amenities, which have a direct impact on the family’s health vigor and efficiency.

4) Internal and external environment of the house should have aesthetic

Value and should be eco friendly from the health point of view and

5) Women and children in particular should be able to maintain their health.

Under the Gramin Ashray scheme none of these are fulfilled where people are nowhere offered basic facilities like clean drinking water, sanitation or proper health care, making it a failure.

The census states the number of houseless beneficiaries in Ron taluk is 9, 972. Gadag district in total has 40, 204 houseless beneficiaries, so Ron contributes almost 25 per cent of the houseless beneficiaries.

Nigappa, an old man lives alone in one of the quarters as his family has abandoned him, he earns his living stitching shoes in the hole-mannur market thinks, “When I will die people will not come to know for at least a week, I will lie here rotten or the dogs will feed on me.”

He recalls spending sleepless night as thugs used to enter his house and bully him like an animal, “Once one of them urinated on my face, initially I used to shout and cry for help but nobody ever dared to come for help, they don’t come much now as they know I have nothing that could interest them.”

He never thought of complaining to the police about his unfortunate conditions as he says, “Police will help us? Police will never help poor people like us, if I go to them, they will beat me instead.”

The empty houses are adversely affecting the social conditions of the region.  A three-member family where the father is bed ridden, son is paralyzed and an aged mother lives in one of the quarters and refers the settlement as ‘Bhoot Bangla’ (Haunted house) shares their concern about staying in the government quarters constructed for Hole-alur village.

Basha, a 31-year-old resident who can barely walk says, “Drunken people come here and ask for money, they trouble us on a daily basis, they consume drugs here in the empty rooms.” He further talked about his health condition where he has to travel for an hour to reach the Taluk general hospital that too in a congested public transport. Yavagal is one of the villages in Ron taluk with severe problems when it comes to basic necessities, people here collect drinking water from stagnant water bodies. Residents of one of the government quarters of Yavagal are equally disappointed, as Shivappa, a farmer says, “Two years back  when the ponds dried up, we spent sleepless thirsty nights for a month, we used to drink very less water but that also never helped.”

But government has now built several Reverse Osmosis purifiers but that did not solve the problem as people there believe that drinking purified water will cause pain in their joints, hence the problem keeps on prevailing. He added, “We would have built better houses if they had provided us money, but living here is one additional challenge in our lives.”

Sai, a senior research associate for Indian Institute for Human Settlements explains, “PMAY has been reworked as in the national scenario a big percentage of the houses provided under Rajya Awas Yojna are lying vacant due to multiple factors such as location, low connectivity and are generally pushed out to really isolated places.”

“These issues cause trouble to the people who are to inhabit the houses and makes life difficult for them in several aspects”, he added.

“The targets PMAY proposed are yet to be met but, the government has just made some minor modification to existing  central housing scheme Indira Gandhi Awas Yojna but they are not making mistakes like pushing the slums away, they are generally trying to reconstruct and redevelop and as an expert we can say that this will help as the people will not lose their livelihood, even if they are shifted to transit shelter just for the period of construction, and they would not have to start from the scratch in a new place. In a country like India housing can sometimes be a very complex issue which takes proper time and planning to achieve,” he added.

Stressing the areas the government is failing, he explains, “Government is making a chaos with the Rehabilitation Resettlement Policy as it focuses on people hit by disasters, it started operation in the rural context but was introduced in urban scenario later. But Government is taking some thumb rules, they are trying to implement the same structure of housing in both rural and urban situations.  The demand of housing is entirely different in rural and urban areas. The government has several demographic, regional and psychological issue to be addressed, the people in the rural regions are not habitual in staying in small blocks of quarters as people in cities live.”

He further suggested, “The government should try and make the houses as livable as possible understanding the demands of people in the region of operation. Moreover government keeps on replicating successful housing projects without putting any thought on geographical and climatic factors, replicating a settlement in Bangalore in Himachal Pradesh will fail as it will not meet the demands of the people”.

 

 

 

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