Extending Indira Awaas Yojana for landless BPL families in India - Opportunities for using RTI strategically
Here's a very important decision taken by the Union Cabinet on 6th August regards Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY). Readers familiar with this rural housing assistance scheme for families below the poverty line (BPL) will recollect that such families could get the benefit of IAY only if they have land or a house-site of their own to build a house using the financial assistance provided by the Union Government. As for poorer landless families, they could get the benefit only if the village panchayat allotted them some land or house site. The practice may vary from state to state. For more information about this scheme click on: http://rural.nic.in/iaygd2.htm
1) Gist of the Cabinet decision:
The 11th Five Year Plan aims at providing homestead land for all landless families by the year 2012. In a recent decision the Union Cabinet has approved a scheme for providing homestead sites for rural landless BPL households. State Governments are required to regularise the land occupied by such landless households wherever legally permissible. If not the State Government is required to allot suitable Government land to such families. This includes commons such as pasture land and land belonging to local panchayats. (I can almost sense the heckles going up amongst readers who are fighting to protect the village commons from further destruction. This scheme may pose problems for the sustainable development of local resources. Nevertheless let me complete the text of this email) Where Government land is not available the State Government can buy private land and allot it to the selected family. Only landless BPL families will get this benefit. The financial burden will be shared equally by the Union Government and the State Governments in the States. The upper limit for spending on this item is Rs. 10,000/- per family. But the State Government must first certify that it could not regularise the land currently occupied by the beneficiary and that Government land was also not available. Funds will be released under this scheme only when the State Goverment certifies that land occupation cannot be regularised and that government land is not available for distribution.
2) Opportunities for RTI interventions:
The spirit and intention of this Cabinet decision is laudable indeed. However there are many pitfalls that need to be avoided if this scheme is to be implemented in a really meaningful manner. Considering the state in which our land records are despite digitization efforts in several states, this will be a gargantuan exercise. The scheme will entail placing a lot of discretion in the hands of the administrators at the block and district level. What kinds of lands will be appropriated under this scheme; will a truly landless BPL family be able to avail the benefit of this scheme; will families belonging to SC/ST communities get their dues; what happens to the village commons like pastureland and many other related issues will have to watched closely. Names and details of beneficiaries will have to be proactively disclosed under the RTI Act. The guidelines of the scheme at the Union and State level will also have to be voluntarily disclosed under the RTI Act. The entire processes of land regularisation and purchase of private land unless closely monitored has enormous potential for corruption. RTI Act will be of much use in this process.
The State Governments will have to take action when the Union Government writes to them conveying the decisions of the Cabinet. This email is being sent as an early warning message so that VOs, CSOs and CBOs may start monitoring the implementation of this scheme from Day 1.
Incentivising the State Governments for providing homestead sites to the rural BPL households
The Union Cabinet today approved the scheme for providing homestead sites to the rural BPL households and its basic parameters.
The main parameters of the scheme are as follows :
(i) For the purpose of allotting homestead sites, the beneficiaries will be selected only from the Permanent IAY Waitlists as per their priority in the list. Only those BPL households who have neither land nor housesite will be eligible.
(ii) In the first instance, the State Government will regularize the land as a homestead site if it is presently occupied by a BPL household and if regularization is permissible as per the existing acts and rules.
(iii) If this is not the case, State Government will allot suitable Government land as homestead site to the eligible BPL household. The Government land includes community land (gocher etc.), land belonging to panchayts or other local authorities.
(iv) In case suitable Government land is not available for allotment as homestead sites, private land may be purchased or acquired for this purpose.
(v) However, before taking up land purchase or land acquisition, competent authority will certify that it was not possible to regularise occupied land, if any or that there is no suitable government land for allotment as homestead sites.
(vi) Financial assistance of Rs.10,000/- per beneficiary or actual, whichever is less, will be provided for purchase /acquisition of a homestead site of an area around 100-250 sq. mt.
(vii) Funding will be shared by Centre and States in the ratio of 50:50 while in the case of UTs Central Government will fund 100%.
(viii) If the amount per beneficiary falls short, the balance amount will be contributed by the State Government.
(ix) First instalment of the funds will be released only after the State certifies that it has no land to provide to the rural BPL either through regularization or through transfer and that it has identified the land meant for acquisition/purchase. Subsequent instalments would be released when the States take possession of the land.
(x) BPL families allotted land through purchase would be, to the extent feasible, provided house construction assistance in the same year.
(xi) The State Governments will be incentivised by allocating additional funds under IAY to the extent beneficiaries are provided with homestead site by way of regularization, allotment or purchase/acquisition. If necessary, a provision will be made in the guidelines to keep a portion of IAY funds apart for incentivising the States. The unspent amount, if any, out of this component will be distributed to the better performing districts.
(xii) Further to achieve the target of “providing homestead sites to all by 2012” as envisaged in the 11th Plan document, the States will be asked to formulate a Policy and to draw up an Action Plan to achieve this target.
(xiii) The States will be expected to provide funds for the proposed scheme over and above their existing budget for similar initiatives. This is also subject to the condition that the States should continue to budget for the Scheme an amount not less than their previous year’s budget.
This will facilitate the rural BPL households to fulfil their need for shelter and also to enable them to avail the benefit of schemes meant for construction of houses.
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