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India's economic reforms and welfare programs empowering the poor
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 18 - 01 - 2022

The Indian government is pursuing its economic growth and reforms strategy with a human face. Although present government has been able to improve on many economic parameters including "Ease of Doing Business" and creating a favorable ecosystem for business startups leading to increase in foreign investment, it remains firmly committed to raise the living standards of the poor and the deprived section through several welfare programs including housing schemes.
The Prime Minister Awas Yojna (PMAY) is one such program, which has made remarkable difference to the lives of the poor and deprived.
Being a second most populous country in the world, it is but natural that there is demand and supply gap in affordable housing in the country. Notwithstanding its success in weathering the post-COVID economic shock, the present Indian government is firmly committed to welfare programs knowing that automatic "trickle down" of growth is very slow and it needs direct intervention.
The main objective of the PMAY is to help the poor in both rural and urban areas in owning affordable houses which is not only a life time dream, but also an "entitlement" to borrow from Amartya Sen and Abhijit Mukherjee, both Indian Nobel Laureates, that empowers the poor and deprived apart from improving their living condition, social status and self esteem.
With the launch of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and the growth of the scheme in the last 6 years, the government has been able to reach the poor on a scale that was never seen before. PMAY aims to provide "Housing for All by 2022".
Under the program 3 crore houses would be constructed in rural areas and 1.2 crore in urban areas. The houses would also have basic amenities. On the basis of Social, Economic and Caste Census of 2011, those who are deemed homeless and/or those living in a single room roof house (huts) would obtain benefits in a pre-decided order of priority under the PMAY - Gramin.
To ensure that these marked individuals are able to construct or at least begin construction, the assistance given is about Rs. 1.2 lakh for those living in plain areas and Rs. 1.3 lakh for those living in hilly areas.
This amount of money serves as a decent encouragement for those who wish to own homes of their own and can devote some amount of energy to the construction of the same, additionally generating employment for those who are involved in collation, planning and design and acquisition of the required materials and building of houses as well.
On the other hand, the PMAY – Urban has been able to make the urban lower middle class dreams come true with affordable housing options with credit linked subsidy being offered to the socio-economically vulnerable groups. In addition to the increased subsidy for house construction, government is planning to harness PPP model for housing ventures as well.
Most importantly, significant progress has been made for rehabilitating slum dwellers with the help of private developers and by redeveloping the erstwhile slum areas into a more hospitable place of living.
The government has resorted to digital technology for mandatory geo-tagging of house plots at the time of listing, application and assistance. Government has also framed transparent rules. Upon approval, the first installment of payment shall be credited to the bank account of the applicant within 7 days of such approval.
After the sanctioning of such amount, construction ought to begin within 12 months. The entire process of application, approval and sanctioning of the said amount is done in a structured manner by using digital means, which has made sufficiently easy for the poor and vulnerable to reach the government.
One could see the same from numbers itself: 1.14 crore houses have been sanctioned with the construction of about 90 lakh houses in progress. With the released central assistance of Rs. 1.1 lakh crores, around 52 lakh houses have been completed in a very short span of time.
Thus, it has become adequately clear that gone are the days when promises about providing houses were made during elections, but never fulfilled.
The housing schemes are being implemented with awareness campaigns, strict monitoring and regular follow-ups for meeting the stipulated timelines and with utmost accountability and transparency. This has helped the government to win the trust of the poor and homeless.
Multiple options and varieties within the scheme have also been explored and put into place. One of the most interesting ones is the Affordable Rental Housing Scheme (ARHS), which has been started under the PMAY-U. The ARHS aims to provide a single bedroom setup of 30 m2 or two bedroom setup of 60 m2 in the vacant government houses mostly developed by private developers.
The rent would be finalized on the basis of local market surveys by urban local bodies itself. The scheme is aimed at providing accommodation to the large migrant labor population that stock to urban centers in the hopes of employment.
India today is the front runner among the emerging economies in terms of economic reforms and good governance. The Indian economy has managed post-COVID economic recovery better than all the big emerging and advanced economies.
The IMF's latest 'World Economic Outlook' has forecast an economic growth of 9.5% and 8.5% for India in FY 2021-22 and FY 2022-23 respectively, keeping it ahead of China in both the fiscal years.
The double digit economic growth, which the prime minister of India aims at for full employment and raising living standard of the people of India, seems within the range of possibility. However, while the economy is poised to tread on a high growth path, the present government is pursuing its welfare programs more assiduously to make growth more equitable. — Agencies


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