The trio of roti, kapda aur makan are the three essentials of a good life. In India last year the largescale migration of workers from urban areas back to their villages stole the headlines of the newspapers. These migrant workers were amongst those who lacked these essentials of life. This raised an important issue of urban housing, especially for the downtrodden sections of society. These people inhabit the slums that are plagued with congestion and poor sanitation. The government has taken a few initiatives to give a fatherly hand to the urban poor. These include the following.
Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana- Urban: It was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban poverty alleviation in 2015. It targets the aim of providing housing for all by 2022 when India completes 75 years of independence. The mission was designed to deal with the issues arising out of slums. Slums are informal settlements with high population density characterized by substandard housing and lack of hygiene. It also aims at promoting affordable housing through credit linked subsidy of 6.5% on housing loan for 15 years. Construction of a house or its enhancement can be undertaken by the loan amount. Public private participation model will be used. The beneficiaries include economically weaker sections (EWS) and low income group (LIG) categories who will be granted rupees 1 Lakh rupees. Additionally, 1.5 lakh rupees will be given to all eligible urban poor for construction in urban areas or the renovation of existing houses. the scheme has three phases that will continue till 2022.
Affordable rental housing complexes for urban migrants was envisioned in 2020. It targeted workers who migrated from rural areas to urban areas. Under this government funded houses across cities that were not allotted yet, were converted to rental housing complexes. This conversion was to be done through concession agreements for 25 years after which they will be reverted to Urban local bodies (ULBs).
In June this year, the cabinet gave a green signal to the India-Japan memorandum of cooperation in the field of sustainable Urban Development. The Ministry of housing and urban affairs and the Ministry of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism signed the agreement. This program will generate employment opportunities while planning a sustainable urban landscape.
These initiatives by the government will accrue affordable housing to the poor. The major issue is that the progress is slow. Lockdown compounded this problem since infrastructure development was stalled during the pandemic. However, the government is sanguine about the progress of the projects.
Affordable housing and congestion have been addressed on global platforms like Habitat for Humanity summit III in Ecuador. The “New urban agenda” was a product of the summit. Giving slum dwellers upgraded housing with basic services by 2030 was envisioned in the document.
According to experts, congestion is a major contributor to the housing shortage. The United nations habitat defines overcrowding as when one habitable room is occupied by more than three people. The pandemic further highlighted the threats from congestion. Physically distancing and home quarantining created new standards. These new developments need to be incorporated into future city planning.