Focus on quality, durability in rural housing scheme

Union minister for rural development Birender Singh has called for an overhaul of the rural housing scheme, including increased allocation of plan resources and the adoption of appropriate technology for providing quality and durable dwelling units to rural poor.

He also called for enhanced allocation to the scheme while pointing out to the gross inadequacy of the current amount of Rs70,000 allocated for individual houses under the Indira Awaas Yojana, stating that it is insufficient to build a decent and livable house.

Singh said the ministry is in the process of finalising the guidelines to be rolled out soon and expected significant enhancement of central allocation for rural housing scheme in tune with the recent hike for urban houses.

To achieve the goal of 'housing for all' by 2022, Singh said, nearly 30 million houses have to be built in rural areas and about 20 million houses in the urban areas, in the next seven years.

But, he cautioned the officials not to achieve the target at a superficial level, but to provide the beneficiaries with houses that can last up to 40 years.

Speaking at a workshop here on Affordable Rural Housing Technology, Singh said that in the last three decades more than 33.5 million Indira Awaas units were built for the rural poor, but nearly half of them are now in a dilapidated condition due to poor quality of construction material used into them.

He said the life span of Indira Awaas is not more than 10 years and instructed the officials to explore the possibilities of procuring steel, cement and bricks at cheaper rates by providing coal at concessional rates to manufacturers of the housing materials.

The minister also said that the benefits of MGNREGA and sanitation programmes will also be dovetailed into the rural housing scheme to ensure quality and durability.

Singh said that guidelines for the housing should be equal for all and there should be no discrimination in allocating dwelling units to the beneficiaries.

He also asked experts on the housing sector to brainstorm the issue without feeling the constraints of the official line. He welcomed new ideas and out-of-box solutions to provide affordable rural houses to the poor.

Speaking on the occasion, minister of state for rural development Sudarshan Bhagat highlighted the idea of using locally available materials and training of unemployed youth in the construction sector.

Secretary, rural development, J K Mohapatra in his address said that technology dissemination for rural housing has a distinct class bias and the centre had failed to roll out appropriate alternative technologies to provide quality houses to the poor.

He also laid stress on the use of institutional and social capital available in the rural areas to augment the vast housing demand.

He said, there is enough room for innovation in the housing sector and expressed the hope that the workshop will come out with some useful findings that can be dovetailed into the central scheme.

Nandita Chatterjee, secretary, housing and urban poverty alleviation pointed to the need to bring in an integral approach right from the planning to the execution of the projects.

She also pointed out that there are a lot of emerging technologies in the housing sector that need to be tapped suitably for affordable and durable houses.