The basic idea of urban governance rest in the devolution of political power by which urban plans are decided and executed not by the whims of the elected bodies but, by the will and aspiration of the people residing in those urban areas.
This idea has been developed for a last couple of decades almost in every urban centers of the world to address the multi dimensional issues usually emerged in every urban area due to rapid urbanization, unprecedented influx from the rural to the urban areas, crisis of purified water supply, abode for all dwellers, scientific dumping of the wastages, degradation of water bodies and air due to contamination, drainage facilities, shortage of recreational and market areas.
The rapid growth of urban population also poses some serious challenges particularly in terms of settlement and housing which has outpaced the development of some basic minimum services like water supply, sewerage and solid waste disposal which are far from adequate. Lack of planning and inadequate food security for urban poor populations has aggravated the problem.
In such a context urban governance is becoming a sensitive contemporary discourse that encompasses a host of economic and social forces, institutions both legal and traditional. To address the housing problem in urban India Narendra Modi led BJP government launched housing scheme– Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) on 25th June 2015 by Prime Minister Modi.
Under this scheme Government has planned to construct about 2 crore houses in the country from 2015 to 2022 and the beneficiary of this scheme include: homeless citizens, poor urban people and citizens belonging to Economically Weaker Section (EWS) and Lower Income Group (LIG) categories. The PMAY mission seeks to address the housing requirement of urban poor including slum dwellers through following programme verticals-
1) Slum rehabilitation of Slum Dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource
2) Promotion of Affordable Housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy
3) Affordable Housing in Partnership with Public & Private sectors
4) Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction
The first programme of this mission regarded as the primary and the most crucial component–in-situ slum redevelopment, where land would be used as a primary resource. Here government will allow the private developers to develop and construct houses and finally a portion of such constructed houses would be provided to eligible slum dwellers.
This approach aims to leverage the locked potential of land under slums to provide houses to the eligible slum dwellers bringing them into the formal urban settlement. Now certain very crucial questions have been emerging in and around Guwahati in respect of this above mentioned programme which need special attention before implementing it.
If the land of a particular slum taken up for ‘In-situ’ redevelopment for providing house to all eligible slum dwellers on Central Government land/State Government Land or Urban Local Body(ULB) or owned by some private individual, then before the process of redevelopment started, such slum compulsorily be denotified.
Whether such denotification has been initiated by the revenue department of the state of Assam in the context of Guwahati is a pertinent legal question for implementing this programme.
The next relevant question is whether the state government of Assam is assuming open bidding process to select private partner for slum redevelopment? Under this project state government would, if required provide additional Floor Area Ratio (FAR)/ Floor Space Index (FSI)/Transferable Development Rights (TDR) for making slum redevelopment projects financially viable.
Though slum rehabilitation grant of Rs 1 lakh per house on an average is admissible as per the guidelines of PMAY but the state government has the flexibility to deploy this central grant for other slums being redeveloped for providing houses to eligible slum dwellers with private participation except slums on private land.
This guideline has also mentioned about the flexibility of a state /union territory to deploy this central grant that again means that such government can utilise more than Rs.1 lakh per house in some projects and less in other projects but within overall average of Rs.1 Lakh per house calculated across the State UT. It is important to inquire about the process adopted by the state government of Assam for selecting private builders for slum redevelopment in Guwahti and the state government initiative to utilise the said grant?
Unfortunately the Assam government has yet not started the preliminary survey for identifying the slum areas in Guwahati that would be covered under this programme and intentionally delaying the demarcation of notified land in the slum areas. Similarly, due to non publicity of this programme as well as the overall policy, people have least concern about the benefit and therefore even after passing of three years a comprehensive beneficiary list have not been published by the concerned authority in respect of slum areas in Guwahati.
Last but not the least, what are the criteria that have been framed by the authorities concerned to include or exclude slum in this programme? As per the guideline issued for PMAY, the state government has the absolute authority to decide whether the constructed houses in the slums will be allotted on ownership rights or on renewable, mortgageable and inheritable rights.
The state government should provide all kind of basic information regarding this housing programme to the slum dweller of this city and disseminate information conspicuously for identifying the beneficiary who really deserves housing accommodation.
Kishor Kumar Kalita is a commentator based in Guwahati and can be reached at email@example.com