PM Awas–Many Questions

Bharat Dogra

All the Kol tribal families of Dafai hamlet of Karvi block, Chitrakut district are extremely poor and vulnerable. In a rare achievement, almost all of them have received housing assistance under PM Awas. What is more, corruption and payment of commissions has been avoided in this particular village, although it is a common practice elsewhere. In the case of most of the households here, almost all of the house construction (leaving aside plastering) has been completed. If several of them have not yet moved in, it is because an auspicious worship considered important in their culture is still awaited.

For one thing even without plastering and white washing and some finishing touches the government funds were not adequate for the house and as these are really very poor people with no savings and with precarious livelihoods, they had no option but to borrow the remaining money at a high rate of interest from private moneylenders. The result is that they have the new house but have to return a high sum on weekly basis which may be very difficult to pay particularly during the lean season of livelihood opportunities. The lenders have stated clearly that they have to return the loan instalments in time no matter what the compulsions of borrowers are.

Villagers gave the break down of the minimal expenditure for the two room house constructed under this scheme (in Rs):
1.   7000 bricks–Rs 42,000
2.   6 quintal iron bars–Rs 36,000
3.   Two trolley stones (gitti)–6000
4.   70 sacks of cement–Rs 22,000
5.   Five trolleys of sand–Rs 15,000
6.   Doors etc.–Rs 10,000
7.   Mason–Rs 12,000
8.  Plastering–Rs 25,000
9.   Whitewashing, misc, labour other than mason, interest payment in the course of house construction as government funds are released in instalments, money spent when overcharged etc. If toilets and washrooms are to be constructed, these too need funds. There are no toilets in this village yet.

Keeping in view all these aspects and inflation, what these villagers need is about Rs 2 lakh for a housing unit, and not Rs 1.20 lakh in three instalments (each instalment paid after certain work has been completed).

In this particular village bribes have not been given or taken in the housing scheme, the villagers said. However elsewhere when bribes are common, the situation becomes even more difficult for the really poor households selected under this scheme.

Another question relates to the unskilled work done by the beneficiary household members. They are supposed to be paid for this and have been told the likely sum is Rs 18,000 or so but they have not received this yet. The scheme of Rs 12,000 for toilet construction has also not reached this village yet, and regarding this it is often stated that this amount should be increased keeping in view of real expenses needed for proper construction in inflationary times.

In Dafai in some cases old kutcha houses were demolished when new ones were constructed, but in some cases these were not. This writer saw a new house which has been beautifully integrated with the old dwelling. This family has constructed the new house in such a way that both can be used together and are almost attached to each other with a little open space in between.

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Vol 56, No. 38, Mar 17 - 23, 2024