Government dreams slum-free India with scheme for 62 mn people


New Delhi : If the Manmohan Singh government’s ambitious plan for a “slum free” India, as announced by President Pratibha Patil in parliament Thursday, becomes a reality some 62 million-plus people living in the country’s urban shanties will have a home of their own.

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Called the Rajiv Awas Yojana, the special housing scheme for the urban poor and slum dwellers will be on the lines of Indira Awas Yojana for the rural areas.

Addressing the traditional joint session of parliament after the formation of a government following the elections, the president said: “My government’s effort would be to create a slum free India in five years through the Rajiv Awas Yojana.”

According to the Planning Commission of India, nearly 62 million people – out of a total population of 1.2 billion – lived in urban slums in India in 2001. Data with the National Sample Survey organisation predict there will be a shortage of around 25 million houses for them in the next four years.

Improving the conditions of the urban poor was on the agenda of the previous Manmohan Singh government too, which in July 2008 launched a nationwide survey about the status of slums in India.

The survey report covering nearly 15,000 villages and blocks in urban centres is expected October this year.

President Patil Thursday said the Rajiv Awas Yojana envisages to extend financial support under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) to states “that are willing to assign property rights” to people living in slums.

He said the existing schemes for affordable housing, including interest subsidy offer, would be dovetailed into the Rajiv Awas Yojana to make it a pilot project on affordable housing for urban poor.