N R Bhanumurthy
One of the flagship and most successful rural development programs of the Government of India is the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana – Grameen (PMAY-G). Based on secondary information as well as with the field level study that we had done at National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), it is evident that the scheme has brought in a transformational change to a large extent to the lives of rural people. With the close institutional convergence of PMAY-G with other flagship schemes of the government, such as MGNREGS, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana and with other state level development schemes, it is not surprising that our investigation corroborate that the beneficiaries are receiving both tangible and intangible benefits from the scheme. The scheme has successfully addressed the unforeseen challenges which were encountered as also the issues of scale, quality through its architecture and it appears that country could easily achieve the ‘Housing for All’ by 2022 as planned. But for this there is a need to focus on state/regional issues to improve the overall progress of the scheme at the regional level. Here we briefly look at how far the program is implemented in the newly formed Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh especially when they are soon completing one year of becoming the UTs.
It may be noted from AwaasSoft MIS on the MoRD website, the latest information suggests (as on 29th July 2020) that in the UT of Jammu & Kashmir, major progress appears to have happened during the last one year. If one looks at sanctioned beneficiaries for 2019-20 (42,778), with all the changes in the region and with some disturbances in few districts, it is important to highlight that nearly 86% of the sanctioned with verified accounts have been provided with the 1st installment (37038). Much more important is for the year 2020-21, despite facing the Covid-19 situation and subsequent lockdown, the UT could geotag over two-thirds of the registered beneficiaries (10719 out of 16562 houses), which is the most critical stage in ensuring smooth fund-flow to the beneficiary account. And within less than two months of unlocking in the rural areas, over one-fourth of the targeted houses have been registered (16,562 out of 62,851 houses). This is at par with the performances of better implementing states in the country. In the case of UT of Ladakh, against the target of 1,229 houses, till date the UT has completed 1,203 houses with a completion rate of as high as 98%, which is comparable with some of the larger states with much more deep institutional set up . And right now, UT of Ladakh has even exhausted the wait-listed beneficiaries.
One important aspect that may need to be highlighted is that the PMAY(G) also has an in-built structure to ensure the ownership among women. The secondary data that is available with respect to gender-wise distribution of sanctioned houses suggest that nearly 84% of sanctioned houses are either in the name of women or in the joint ownership in Jammu & Kashmir, quite high compared to other states. However, in the case of Ladakh, it is only about 65%. With respect to financial progress, again the secondary data suggests a utilization ratio of about 117.84% for the year 2019-20, and this could be due to some of the backlogs in the previous years. Nevertheless, this suggest that there is a sharp pick-up in the construction activity in 2019-20 compared to previous years. Even in 2020-21, the utilization ratio is about 26.81% within the two months when the lockdown was ended in the middle of May 2020.
However, there are few concerns with respect to overall implementation of the scheme in the UTs, which may be largely due to the specific constraints that the UTs face like intermittent internet connectivity. The gap analysis for the last two years shows that there are gaps in terms of release of instalments to the beneficiaries. And this could be for couple of reasons – the delay in the inspection of progress by the designated functionaries across different stages of construction and the other is the difficulties in uploading the geo-tagged pictures especially due to network issues (only 2G is available in the region).
In terms of speed, while our earlier study has shown that, on an average among larger states, it was taking only about 114 days to complete a PMAY(G) house, given the terrain as well as network issues, it could be taking longer time in these two new UTs. However, as compared to the past, especially during 2017 and 2018, based on the completion rate in 2019-20 as well as the financial progress one could suggest a substantial decline in the number of days needed for completion, which suggests that an agile mode of house construction is being undertaken in the UTs.
Overall, while there is a significant progress (both physical and financial) in both the UTs in terms of implementation, more need to be done especially in speeding up the construction activity to bring these UTs at par with other better performing states.
The writer is the Vice Chancellor of BASE University, Bengaluru.