Kerala Accuses Centre of Stifling Housing Scheme, Withholding Self-Government Grants
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Flickr
The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala had launched the Livelihood Inclusion Financial Empowerment Mission (LIFE) to ensure housing for homeless people in the state. The LDF government, during its tenure since 2016, has handed over 3,56,108 houses to the beneficiaries, while 1,41,257 more houses are expected to be completed in the current financial year.
The opposition block, the United Democratic Front (UDF) led by the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have been opposing the scheme, citing several reasons and unleashing an array of allegations. The LDF government has accused the central agencies, including the Enforcement Directorate (ED), of attempting to derail the project.
With multiple attempts to stifle the project failing, the Department of Local Self Government in Kerala has accused the Union government of forcing the state government to install logos of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) in the houses constructed under the central scheme to which the LDF government has taken exception.
As per the LDF government, the housing facility is a right of the citizens, and it has refrained from putting any branding on the houses handed over to the beneficiaries.
The minister for Local Self Government Department (LSGD), in a statement, has accused the Union government of asking for credit despite providing only 18% of the construction cost.
Further, the minister for LSGD has accused the Union government of imposing conditions for the release of funds for implementing various schemes, affecting the functioning of the state's much more effective and decentralised three-tier panchayat system.
SUCCESS OF LIFE MISSION
The LIFE mission, the ambitious program of the LDF government, was launched on November 10, 2016, to provide housing facilities for an estimated 4.32 lakh people who don't own land or a house. The number was later revised to 4.72 lakhs. The government of Kerala provides Rs 4 lakhs per house under the LIFE mission.
A small percentage of the houses approved under the scheme receive grants from the PMAY Gramin or PMAY Urban of the Union government. The government grants Rs 72,000 and Rs 1,50,000 for constructing houses in rural and urban areas, respectively.
As per the statement of the minister of LSG, M B Rajesh, the Union government granted Rs 72,000 for only 32,171 houses, while Rs 1,50,000 was granted for 79,860 houses. On the other hand, the state government provided Rs 3,28,000 for the 32,171 houses covered under PMAY scheme, while providing Rs 4 Lakhs to the remaining 2,44,077 houses under LIFE mission.
An estimated 31.45% of houses completed have received grants from the central schemes, with a share of Rs 2,024.65 crores (14.73% of the total cost of construction). The Union government is insisting on branding the houses under the PMAY scheme. However, the LDF government has spent Rs 13,736.6 crores (85.27% of the total construction cost) and has refrained from advertising the scheme in the houses built.
“The LDF government has given the right to design the houses as per the wishes of the beneficiary. They should live in the house with self-respect just like any other individual, without any logo or symbol exposing the contributions of the government,” the statement of the minister noted.
Appealing to the people of Kerala to oppose the Centre’s intervention in the flagship housing scheme, the minister also accused the Union government of imposing similar co-branding activities for projects, including Swachh Bharat, for which the state government contributes a larger share.
‘UNACCEPTABLE CONDITIONS FOR FUND RELEASE ’
Another issue flagged by the LSGD is the delay in distribution of grants as per the 15th Finance Commission and the imposition of conditions for spending the same.
“The Union government and the finance commission have imposed conditions on the spending since 2020-21. They are even dictating how the grants of the state government should be spent by the local bodies,” the minister alleged.
The LDF government has allocated 27.19% of the plan funds to the local self-governments, amounting to Rs 8,258 crores. The government has announced allocating 30% of the plan funds by increasing the allocation by 0.5% every year.
“The 15th Finance Commission has earmarked 60% of the funds as tied grant, which can be spent for limited schemes as per the conditions laid out by the centre. The remaining 40% is the basic grant. Without understanding the diverse needs, imposing a blanket rule across the country for utilising the health grant for six different schemes is unacceptable for us,” the minister said in the statement.
The LDF government also accused the Union government of withholding the grants for LSGs of Rs 814 crores. After continuously demanding the release of grants, the state has received Rs 252 crores on November 21, while more than two thirds of the grants remain unreleased.
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.