Villagers displaced by violence in Chhattisgarh can avail themselves of scheme

Crucial changes will be initiated in the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) – the flagship housing programme for the rural poor – in the coming budget. The allocation for the IAY has gone up by a substantial Rs. 6,000 crore, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh told The Hindu . Another significant change is the extension of the scheme to the urban poor who got displaced from rural areas.

It effectively means villagers displaced by violence in south Chhattisgarh, including those residing in Salwa Judum camps, can now avail themselves of the IAY. Extending the IAY to urban areas will help the displaced poor in Left Wing Extremism-affected districts of south Chhattisgarh, feels Mr. Ramesh.

After the budget session, each BPL family will be eligible to get Rs. 70,000 instead of the existing 45,000 for house construction on plain land in rural areas, while in hilly areas or LWE-affected districts, the allotted amount will be Rs. 75,000 instead of 48,500. The budget allocation has been increased from Rs. 11,075 crore last year to Rs. 17,000 crore in 2013-14. Almost three million families are availing themselves of the scheme every year and that will remain unchanged.

Mr. Ramesh confirmed that the Union Cabinet approved the proposal last month.

The IAY has also been made accessible to people living in Salwa Judum camps, albeit indirectly. The scheme is meant for the BPL rural poor. But now it has been extended to the urban poor who were displaced from rural areas. “The idea was pushed mainly in view of large-scale displacements that took place in south Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada, Sukma, Bijapur and Narainpur districts during anti-Maoist operations,” Mr. Ramesh said. There are still more than 20 Salwa Judum camps in south Chhattisgarh housing over 10,000 people, who at one point used to live deep inside the forest, in rural areas.

Salwa Judum camps were set up at the peak of the anti-Maoist movement between 2005 and 2009. While some residents of the camps in Dantewada told this correspondent in 2009 that they were forced to leave their villages by the Maoists because of their ‘class position,’ a large number of them stated that they had been brought to the camp by the State security forces, and were allegedly being forced by the local administration to stay on in the camps. Following a Supreme Court judgement in 2011 directing the State government to take ‘appropriate measures to prevent the operation’ of the Salwa Judum, which the court identified as an ‘armed civilian vigilante group,’ the hapless camp inmates were virtually abandoned. Though official sources continue to characterise the Salwa Judum or ‘Peace March’ as a ‘spontaneous movement,’ the movement was described as a severe blow to human and tribal rights by media and activists.

Asked whether the IAY’s extension to ‘urban areas’ can be connected to the Salwa Judum, Mr. Ramesh said, “Yes, to an extent. One may say the idea was borne out of the Chhattisgarh experience.”

Welcoming the Centre’s decision half-heartedly, chief of the All India Adivasi Mahasabha Manish Kunjam said there were about 15,000 people living in the forest areas in south Chhattisgarh whose houses were torched and whose family members were killed by Salwa Judum members or SPOs. “It is mandatory for the government to extend the scheme to them as well. It should be clearly stated that displaced people from both sides can get the same benefit and then only we can wholeheartedly say it is a good scheme,” he said.

  • Allocation for the scheme has gone up by Rs.6,000 crore

  • It is now accessible to people living in Salwa Judum camps, albeit indirectly