Delay in Modi government’s flagship rural housing scheme to invite penalty

Centre to fine laggard States for not meeting targets of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin)

Updated - September 16, 2022 12:53 pm IST

Published - September 15, 2022 11:53 pm IST - New Delhi

 Under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin), the Centre has set itself a target of 2.95 crore houses. File

 Under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin), the Centre has set itself a target of 2.95 crore houses. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Pulling up States for the delay in completion of Narendra Modi government’s flagship rural household scheme — Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin)— the Union Ministry of Rural Development has come up with a set of penalties that the State governments will have to bear for any further delay. Opposition-ruled West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Odisha along with BJP-ruled Assam are the leading four laggard States who are far behind their targets.

This is the first time, since the scheme started in April 2016 with a target of constructing 2.95 crore houses, that the Union Government has introduced a penalty clause. Under the scheme, the government has set itself a target of 2.95 crore houses. This number was deduced from the Socio-Economic Caste Survey, 2011.

The initial deadline for the scheme was March 2022, which owing to the COVID pandemic was extended by another two years till March 2024. As per the statistics available with the Union Ministry of Rural Development, till August 2022, 2.02 crore houses have been constructed.

On September 13, the Ministry has sent a circular to all State governments listing out six penalty clauses. If the sanction of the house is delayed for more than one month from the date of issue of the target, the State government will be penalised ₹10 per house for the first month of delay and ₹20 per house for each subsequent month of delay. Similarly, if the first instalment due to the beneficiary is delayed for more than seven days from the date of sanction, then the State governments will have to pay ₹10 per house per week of delay. The circular has specified that no penalty would be imposed if the central funds are not available with the State.

“The order is only to ensure that the States pay more attention to the programme. Because of the COVID pandemic, we have already missed one deadline and now we have only 19 months till March 2024 to complete all the pending houses,” a senior official at the Ministry said.

Out of the remaining 93 lakh houses, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal are the biggest offenders. The Union Government is yet to release funds for 12 lakh houses in Chhattisgarh and 11 lakh houses in West Bengal. Funds to both these States for this financial year was withheld for various lapses.

In case of West Bengal, after complaints from the BJP MPs from the State against the Mamata Banerjee government’s move to repackage the scheme as “Bangla Awas Yojana” and other procedural gaps, the Union Government had withheld funds due to pending response from the State government. According to sources, the West Bengal government recently has answered all the questions raised by the Union Ministry. The decision to release the funds now lies with Union Minister Giriraj Singh.

In case of Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh, the funds were withheld by the Union Government on State government’s failure of putting in their share of the contribution. The total expenditure is shared by the Centre and the State at the rate of 40-60% for the majority of the States. Sources in the Sate government said that the State has recently paid up its share and is awaiting the Union Government’s share to begin work on its pending target.

Among other States, Assam has not sanctioned seven lakh houses and Odisha has not sanctioned nine lakh houses. Maharashtra with 2.5 lakh houses and Bihar with two lakh houses are also among top offenders.

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