It’s the largest Indian development project abroad and is aiming to help those displaced during the last Eelam war

It’s been hardly four months since the second phase of the India-assisted housing project got under way here, but already about a dozen houses of the 43,000 planned have been completed.

“Already about 10 houses are ready under our area itself,” said United Nations Human Settlement Programme’s National project Manager I.A. Hameed. UN-HABITAT is one of the three implementing agencies selected by the Indian authorities. The Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Ashok K. Kantha said work on building more than 5000 houses had already commenced.

India abandoned the contractor-driven approach undertaken in the pilot project — for which the former External Affairs Minister, S.M. Krishna, laid the foundation stone in November 2010, and which finally got completed about two years later and opted for the beneficiary-driven approach.

The housing project, aiming at the construction of 50,000 houses for Sri Lanka’s internally displaced, is the largest Indian development project abroad. The project, worth nearly Rs. 1400-crore, is expected to be completed by October 2015.

Explaining the approach that speeded up the implementation of the project, Development Cooperation wing officials told The Hindu that the key was selection of beneficiaries based on an open and transparent system, the hiring of reputed implementing agencies (IAs) and monitoring at all levels and all stages of the process. The IAs facilitate in the construction of the houses by the beneficiaries.

Under the owner driven model, the beneficiaries were identified in consultation with the government of Sri Lanka and were in charge of the construction of their houses. Funds were transferred to their savings bank accounts directly by the Development Cooperation Wing of the High Commission in four instalments. The money was released based on the progress in construction.

Of the 50,000 houses, as many as 43,000 will be built or repaired in the North and the East, which bore the burnt of the last Eelam War, which ended in May 2009. A total of 6000 more houses will be built in the hill provinces, where the impoverished Indian Tamil plantation labourers reside.

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