In the years post-independence, there have been several sections where India still needs progress; poverty and homelessness are amongst the most critical issues grappling with the country's growth. On its face, we seem to be a part of an ideal country, with the most self-explanatory set of rules.
The Constitution is said to be an amalgamation of the best parts of several Constitutions across the globe. However, even after 75 years of independence of a democratic country that guarantees the right to life to all its citizens, more than 1.8 million people are deprived of one of the most necessities of life, a house to live in.
Government Initiatives In The Country
India has one of the most diverse range of housing schemes in the world. Apart from the Central government schemes for housing the homeless or making affordable housing a reality, several state governments, too, have launched their initiatives.
Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awas Yojana (PMGAY) by the Centre, Delhi Development Authority (DDA) housing scheme, Tamil Nadu Housing Board Scheme, Maharashtra Housing & Area Development Authority (MHADA) schemes are just to name a few. The schemes to build houses for the poor leads to more significant employment opportunities as well.
Since India's population exponentially rose in the last few decades, cities and towns couldn't provide enough spaces for housing the people. The Global Homelessness Statistics show that over half of India's 1.8 million homeless people lived in slums on the outskirts of cities. Despite such alarming numbers, the country has made significant progress in addressing the issue.
The Housing For All Act by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was one of the most prominent initiatives in the right direction. PM Modi claimed that PMAY, under the Act, would build houses for all by the end of 2022. Initially, the Act attracted criticism from the Opposition, but the fumes eventually died out.
The state of Kerala became a pioneer of sorts to initiate welfare schemes for the needy and poor. Kerala government conducted a need-based survey in which they identified families without a shelter and endeavoured to build 4,00,000 state-funded houses. This was Kerala's initiative to address the rising menace of homeless people. Positively so, the government was able to rehabilitate 145 families in a 270 flat complex made for the homeless. Several critics advised the Centre to follow Kerala's housing model, which was based on a legitimate survey.
The Never-Ending Vicous Circle: Population And Housing
The lack of proper housing is one of the consequences of many issues that India has been battling for years together. The vicious circle encompasses several problems like poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and therefore, no housing. India has a massive population, and it is practically impossible to envision making housing available.
Therefore, the next step that the government took was to enable affordable housing for all. Affordable housing could be referred to as one of the building blocks of the Indian economy. The policy would enable the revival of investment and support the policies the government announced before bringing into effect several economic, regulatory policies.
The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana was launched in 2015 and was the Modi government's endeavour to bridge the country's low-cost housing gap. The initial plan was to develop 50 million housing spaces in five years, out of which 30 million would be in rural areas, and 20 million would be under urban boundaries. On the same lines, the government had already approved 1.3 million urban homes. The cement industry was one of the most benefitted industries from the announcement, and the demand for the commodity grew by 8 to 10 per cent.
Even though the Housing for All scheme was started with enthusiasm, several other factors impacted people's interests to avail the scheme's benefits. Post the announcement of Housing For All, the country faced Demonetisation, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) reforms.
Just when the public was getting over the struggle of the economic reforms, the world suffered and virtually shut down on the pretext of COVID-19. A study by BASIC Home Loans, a fintech company, suggests that more than half of the people who apply for home loans are unaware of the government's rebates.
What Survey Reveals About The Situation Of Homeless?
While on the one hand, lack of awareness is a significant factor that deprives many citizens of the government's benefits. A lack of proper surveys and studies to judge the need for housing is also lacking at the government's end. A report by the Rural Development Department mentioned that less than 25 per cent of beneficiaries had been allocated with land for housing. PMGAY was one of the leading promises of the Modi manifesto before the 2014 elections, and the government data mentions that 1.5 crore houses of the two crore houses were built by the end of 2019.
Bihar tops the charts for lack of identification of beneficiaries since only 1.2 per cent of people have been allocated lands. On the other hand, other states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and MadhyaPradesh have managed to identify and allocate land to more than 80 per cent of the landless. Several critics have lashed out at the government, saying that perhaps the time has arrived for the Centre to follow the footsteps of its states and not vice versa.
Still advocating its policies, the Centre had said in November 2019 that Housing For All has successfully generated more than one crore jobs in auxiliary industries like steel, brick kilns, cement, paint and so on. The umbrella scheme was said to be impacting the livelihoods, transport businesses, enhancing skill development and landscape development sector. The government has invested heavily in the housing sector with nearly ₹ 6 lakh crore until now.
On the path of development, housing for all is one of the critical aspects India should focus on for an inclusive and holistic development process. Making and implementing schemes is not the be-all and end-all of a good governance policy for the Centre; spreading awareness about initiatives and making them available at the grassroots of democracy is the answer.