Home truths of raising a house on govt fund

In Salboni, insufficient funds and yawning time gap between allotment of instalments hinder Indira Awas Yojana

pujab

Puja Bhattacharjee | November 29, 2012


Few like Gopal Doloi spend IAY funds on building a new house. Most spend it on repairing existing houses, not allowed by rules.
Few like Gopal Doloi spend IAY funds on building a new house. Most spend it on repairing existing houses, not allowed by rules.

Media for Accountability

It could well be called, with due apologies to the Nobel laureate, A House for Mr Doloi but for a small anomaly. Almost everyone in Salboni block of West Medinipur district awaiting houses under the government’s Indira Awas Yojana is a Mr Doloi, and almost everyone gets a house. Or, well, almost.
But over to Mr Doloi — or Gopal Doloi of Radhakantapur village — for now. “I got Rs 35,000 in two instalments to build a house under IAY. I started construction after receiving the first instalment, but the second instalment was delayed by a year and half. So I borrowed money and finished the construction.

“I paid off the debt after receiving the second instalment later,” he says.

It took Doloi three months to build his house. “But Rs 35,000 was not enough to build a house. It cost me an additional Rs 7,000,” he adds.
While Doloi, along with several other IAY beneficiaries, took his complaint to the panchayat about the delay in getting money under the public welfare scheme, he is hardly alone. When it comes to Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), each panchayat in Salboni reaches a consensus: the fund allotted is late, and never ever enough.

Block development officer of Salboni, Jayanta Biswas raises another problem: Kolkata has stopped releasing funds under IAY to the district. Why? Biswas reasons that they could not utilise the funds properly in his block. “This year, only 55 percent of funds have been utilised so far,” he says. “We give two instalments for the scheme, and since the first instalment was not properly utilised there is a delay in disbursing the second instalment.

“The state has ceased funds to the district.”

The initial puzzle: Who is a beneficiary
Like a tennis player, Subroto Doloi, secretary of gram panchayat number 8, Gormal, lobs the ball to the other court. Problems in IAY arise, he says, primarily due to the way beneficiaries spend the money allocated to them. “Some people either spend it on repairing existing houses or on other requirements. But IAY guidelines clearly state that a beneficiary has to build a new house,” he says.

While the IAY guidelines say a beneficiary has to build a brick house with the funds allocated, most villagers opt for mud houses to keep cost within check, though it soars nevertheless, panchayat officials and some beneficiaries tell Governance Now.

At times, after the first instalment reaches beneficiaries, the panchayat reviews the progress and forwards the details to the BDO, who then prepares to release the second instalment, Doloi says.

But a significant problem is figuring out who a beneficiary is. Explaining the IAY beneficiary selection procedure, Subroto Doloi says the panchayat holds an annual meeting around the month of May. It is a forum where people raise their demands for houses. “The list is then compiled (based on demand). In November, the panchayat members hold a budget discussion and the final list is prepared in a gram sabha meeting by December,” Doloi says.
The complete list is then forwarded to the BDO.

The funds are transferred from the block directly to the beneficiary’s accounts to prevent misappropriation. “The beneficiary is required to have a bank account and land to build the house on,” Salboni BDO Jayanta Biswas says.

The secondary puzzle: How to dole out funds
According to Biswas, the Rural Household Survey (RHS) had earlier conducted a study to determine the prospective beneficiaries of the scheme and prepared a list in 2005. Two lists of beneficiaries were prepared according to the score generated on the basis of socio-economic factors in that survey: P2=1 and P2=2. Those who scored below 20 in the survey were put in P2=1 list and the others in P2=2.

In Gormal panchayat, the P2=1 list has 375 names and P2=2 has around 900 names. Doloi says P2=1 is given priority.

The problem, however, was the same then as it is now: of allocation of funds. Though the survey was conducted in 2005, the funds weren’t released before 2010. “Almost 300 beneficiaries in P2=1 list have been covered (till date). Once it is exhausted, funds will be doled out for P2=2,” Doloi says.

The waiting list was updated in March 2011, and subsequently this August, though only two names have been added to the list so far this year.

“The first instalment of funds for our panchayat was given two years ago. Some of the beneficiaries have got the second instalment around September-end this year,” Doloi says.

Bakibandh panchayat number 4, meanwhile, has 158 beneficiaries for IAY under P2=1 list, of which 151 have been covered so far. The other list, P2=2, has 313 beneficiaries. Pradhan Jaba Singh says they have no mandate to update the list. “Whenever a new demand is made, we recommend those names under other housing schemes,” she says.

Besides IAY, there are other housing schemes modelled on it — such as Gitanjali for EWS minority, Amar Bari, Amar Thikana, Nija Griha Nija Bhumi — that are sponsored by government departments such as fishery, minority and so forth.

The puzzling puzzle: Who is slipping up?
But how do some people get more money than others (see box) under the same scheme and for the same purpose: to build a house? BDO Jayanta Biswas says the difference in unit cost, or the amount given to the beneficiaries, varies from time to time, and thereby leads to the apparent discrepancy in the amount actually reaching the people. “There is also a time gap between policy-making and ground-level implementation — between the time the allocation is made officially and the money actually reaching the people. This also creates a difference of margin,” he says.

From this year, he adds, beneficiaries are getting Rs 48,500 under IAY in two instalments.

According to Biswas, a big hindrance in getting money under IAY is erratic documentation. “We don’t get reports from gram panchayats on time. That holds up allocation of instalments, and the decision on the next course of action,” he says.

Asked about monitoring cells to look into these issues, he says such cells are in place but monitoring and review cannot be done properly since most officers are “too busy”. “We work with only 40 to 50 percent of staff strength,” he adds. “People responsible down the line have to be made more active. The sense of urgency has to percolate.”

But Biswas is confident that the pending work under IAY will be done by the end of the year.

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