Sushila Ahirwar spends her time basking in the pink October chill on the verandah of her half-built home. This is the home she’s resided in for the last 60 years. At 64, moments of leisure like these are a treasure to Sushila. She earns a living for her family washing dishes at weddings, with the matrimonial season in Bhopal about to kick off. Although this income provides some assistance in maintaining the household, Sushila’s dream of transforming her home into a finished, ‘pucca’ house remains unfulfilled.
Leela Bai (58), residing in Mahadev Nagar colony, similarly works as a utensil washer in a close-by colony like Sushila, in order to manage her household. She points out her issues while introducing her single-room house that resembles a tin shed located within a narrow lane of her colony. When queried about her concerns regarding the upcoming assembly elections, she responds:
“The government should just build houses for us, this is what we want.”
New urban housing scheme
In a September public meeting held in Indore, CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan announced the new urban housing scheme in Madhya Pradesh. This initiative will assist citizens in constructing their own homes. However, no specific details about the scheme have been revealed. Regardless, Madhya Pradesh achieved a noteworthy record in July for the provision of housing to impoverished individuals. Under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban), the state built and allocated 6.76 lakh pucca houses, ranking it as the second highest state in India. This program has approved a total of 9 lakh 61 thousand 147 houses in Madhya Pradesh, with 7 lakh 20 thousand 723 homes completed as of October 30, 2023. But, these approved homes exclude those of Sushila and Leela Bai.
An official of Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) says on the condition of anonymity, “Under the PM Awas Yojana, houses have been built in 17 places in Bhopal.” He says that the government spends a total of Rs 8.6 lakh to build a house. This money is given in instalments as loans.
“1.5 lakh is given by the Center and the same amount as grant by the state government. We take Rs 2 lakh from the beneficiary. The remaining Rs 3.6 lakh is added to this from the amount received from selling LIG/MIG flats built by the corporation.”
Home repair is a big challenge
For Santoshi, a resident of the Banganga slum, the complicated mathematics of government funds makes no sense. Her home in the slum only has a sheet of paper for a roof. The only connection they have to elections is that this piece of paper once served as a billboard for a political leader during a past election.
“The wall of my house also collapsed during the rains, so I took a loan of Rs 45 thousand and repaired the house.”
Santoshi mentions that, like her, many people in the area have taken out loans for house repairs. Because of her husband’s poor health, however, Santoshi finds repaying this loan increasingly difficult.
Officials from the Municipal Corporation have stated that in order to provide Prime Minister Awas in a slum, they must be fully vacated. After which, houses can be built in place of the slums. If the slum isn’t vacant, the dwellers are relocated to houses on vacant government land nearby. However, Raksha, a rent-paying resident of Bhopal’s Banganga Basti, narrated her struggles when she applied for the PM Awas. She was constantly redirected from one place to another by the officials. “They keep me moving around, sending me from here to there,” she stated.
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