Girija Vyas, who took over as the new Minister for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation on Tuesday, said her priorities were to eradicate urban poverty and change the dismal housing shortage scenario, which was also in line with the Congress party’s decades-old promise of providing ‘ rozi, roti, aur makan ’ (work, food and shelter) to the people.
On the first day in office — which she began with an elaborate prayer to her deity Shrinathji and by thanking her party boss Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the party general secretary Rahul Gandhi — Ms. Vyas said she was aware of the limitations in terms of time, but would make up for it by utilising every minute.
“I cannot turn a 24-hour day into a 28-hour one; but I will divide the day into many, many minutes and utilise each second,” she told journalists.
“We have already taken care of the ‘ roti ’ part by working on the Food Security Bill, ‘ rozgar ’ too has been addressed by the employment guarantee schemes. We will now focus on ‘ makan ’,” she said, adding that it was only during the tenure of UPA I and UPA II that schemes for the urban poor were drafted and implemented.
And to follow that up, her Ministry would prioritise the implementation of schemes like the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill 2013, Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) and National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM).
Poverty alleviation and a holistic approach to urban poverty eradication, she said, were issues that had found support within the party and from the Prime Minister even at a time of economic downturn.
“We will push for the passing of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013 in the monsoon session of Parliament as it will help solve a lot of problems in the housing sector,” she said in reply to a query on whether she would pursue the work undertaken by her predecessor Ajay Maken, who was instrumental in pushing for clearance of the pro-consumer Bill.
A former chairperson of the National Commission for Women and a Member of Parliament from Chhittorgarh in Rajasthan, Ms. Vyas said she had been actively involved in social work and expressed the hope that she would be able to undertake pro-people initiatives.
First elected to the Lok Sabha in 1991, Ms. Vyas became the Union Deputy Minister for Information and Broadcasting. This is her fourth term in the Lower House.