COVID-19 Casts Long Shadow on Centre's Flagship Rural Housing Scheme

Only 5.4% of sanctioned houses for the year 2020-21 have been completed so far under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin.

New Delhi: Due to the adverse impact of COVID-19, only 5.4% of sanctioned houses under the Central government’s flagship rural housing scheme, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin, reached completion for the year 2020-21, The Hindu reported, citing a rural development ministry’s report to a parliamentary standing committee.

As a result, the department has been able to reach only 55% of its construction target so far, while Modi’s government has already set itself the ambitious target of providing “housing for all” by March 2022. While money has been sanctioned for 85% of beneficiaries so far, only 55% of houses have been constructed.

In absolute figures, of the 2.28 crore houses’ target, the government had been able to finish the construction of 1.27 core by January 28, 2021, the standing committee report presented to Lok Sabha earlier this month noted. Another 61 lakh houses are under construction.

Launched in April 2016, the PMAY-G aims to built pucca houses with basic amenities for all rural households who are homeless or living in a kutcha or dilapidated house by the end of March 2022. According to rural development ministry estimates based on 2019 experience, it takes about 114 days to finish the construction of a house. However, COVID-19 has played spoilsport and stalled progress.

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The ministry told the standing committee that the non-availability of construction material, workers, and inability to conduct timely inspections had resulted in the long delays. However, it said that the ministry had also issued an advisory to states to carry on with construction work from April 2020 while adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols.

On the other hand, the department’s report mentioned that some states, such as Odisha and Jharkhand, took advantage of the scheme to provide employment to migrant workers who returned home from cities during the peak of the pandemic last year.

As result, Odisha has been able to finish construction of 10.5% of houses sanctioned for the 2020-21 year and began work on 85% of houses for which money was sanctioned last year. Similarly, Jharkhand has been able to complete 7.25% of the target and started work on more than 91% of houses sanctioned this year.

On the other spectrum, states such as Assam, Karnataka, and Chhattisgarh, did not see the completion of even a single house sanctioned during the year.

Although the government was supposed to sanction 63 lakh houses this year, only 34 lakh houses were sanctioned. Of the sanctioned houses, only 1.9 lakh houses reached completion by January end. Almost 19 lakh houses reached the lintel level while six lakh reached the later stages of construction with roofs ready to be added, the data presented to the Committee showed.