Rural ministry races against time to build houses for poor

The rural development ministry has to double its efforts to fulfill Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise to build more houses for rural poor.

In his address to the nation on the eve of the New Year, the PM announced that his government will build 33% more houses under the Pradhan Mantri Grameen Awas Yojna.

For the ministry, grappling to meet the annual targets of houses, it means that a total 4.4 million new rural houses for poor have to be built in this year.

The housing programme, a popular scheme in rural India was earlier named after Indira Gandhi but last November, the Modi government renamed it as Pradhan Mantri Grameen Awas Yojna.

“Earlier we had the target of building 3.3 million houses. Now the target is revised to 4.4 million. But we are confident we will manage,” said rural development secretary Amarjeet Sinha. The ministry also has to complete its target of finishing 1.2 million incomplete houses across the country.

The entire exercise looks like an uphill task as the rural development ministry has been able to build just 1.1 million to 1.8 million houses annually in the last five years.

As the Modi government has been pushing pro-poor measures, rural housing is a key area for it. Gaps in reaching targets can be a politically risky affair, especially after the PM himself has set a specific goal.

“I admit there can’t be any excuse of not fulfilling the objective. The PM has given us enough funds and also a free hand in implementing a strategy,” Sinha told HT.

To push faster construction of houses, the union government has also announced prizes for district magistrates. “Districts in which at least 50% of the target if fulfilled, DMs will be given special awards from the Centre. We are also getting good response for this programme from all states,” said Sinha.

The rural housing scheme has also emerged as a key area for employment for the locals. Sensing its potential, the ministry is also providing training programmes in masonry, carpentry and plumbing. The centre, in a bid to reap demographic dividend, has an ambitious plan to get 30,000 trained masons by July 2017.

While the UPA government had allotted Rs 82,000 for construction of a house and a toilet, the Modi government had hiked the allotment to Rs 1.32 crore.

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