Eager to make cities slum-free within the next five years, the Union government has drawn up the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) under which States which are ready to accord property rights to slum dwellers would be assisted by the Centre to upgrade their slums.

A promise made by President Pratibha Patil in her address to the joint session of Parliament in June and reiterated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his Independence Day address, the contours of RAY were unveiled on Saturday by Union Minister for Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation, Selja, while presenting her 100-day report card.

Once States committed themselves to giving property rights to slum dwellers, they would be assisted by the Centre to draw up their Slum Free Plans of Action. Under the plan, the States would have to prepare a legislation for assignment of property rights as the first step.

Besides, the States would have to identify the cities intended to be covered and their phasing. At the outset itself, States would have to commit themselves to a “whole city approach” so that an integrated and holistic plan was prepared to upgrade all existing slums – notified and non-notified – in each identified city, Ms. Selja said.

The stress, according to Ms. Selja, would be on in situ redevelopment to keep dislocation of slum-dwellers to the bare minimum. Pointing out that the government was for inclusive growth, she said, relocation of dwellers would be done only where it was absolutely unavoidable. “We have already failed our urban poor; now we must plan ahead in anticipation of their needs.”

Asked if the five-year deadline for a slum-free India was a do-able target, Ms. Selja said: “Unless we set a goal, we will never reach anywhere. The same kind of scepticism was expressed when we launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission but look how it has worked as a stimulant for development. We don’t claim that all problems will be solved overnight, but at least we have recognised the problem.”

The proposal drawn up by the Ministry has already got the Planning Commission’s in-principle clearance. Though a lot of paper work needs to be completed before RAY becomes a policy, the Ministry has already commissioned surveys in 394 Class I cities with more than one lakh population to develop a “robust database” on slums.

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