Home for Laxman Mehangal and his family of four, a few months back was a meagre mud-and-thatch hut in Borgaon, Khalapur, at a distance of 70 kilometers, southeast of Mumbai. Now, circumstances have changed and he owns a brick-and-concrete structure less than half the size of a squash court.
34 year old Mehangal has to travel a distance of 40 kms every day from his home to Matheran, where he works as a laborer. He owes his new home to the financial aid provided to him under the Prime Minister’s Rural Housing Scheme. This program has provisions to fund families living below poverty line with Rs 1.2 lakh each, so as to enable them construct homes of area 25 sqm per family.
As he prepared tiffin for his four-year-old school going daughter, Deepu, Mehangal expressed gratitude to the government for his new home, “We now have more space and a better shelter”.
The PMAY (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana) – Gramin Yojana covers 576 such beneficiaries from 120 villages of the Khalapur taluka, from where Mehangal belongs. The rural housing scheme is aimed at housing one crore people like him; who have no roof on their heads or live in mud houses. The program that was rolled out in November 2017 has so far succeeded in building just 10 lakh homes and the targeted figure of 51 lakh by March still seems a distant dream. However, according to the Ministry of Rural Development, they can cross the target if they construct 10 lakh homes every month.
Panchayats have listed beneficiaries on the basis of 2011 Socioeconomic and Caste Census. According to KB Patil, the Gram Sevak (Village Council Worker) of Borgaon, after validating ration cards of the prospective beneficiaries, a list is sent to the panchayat for a second round of verification.
“This list then undergoes a third scrutiny by an external contractor”, says the block development officer of the Panchayat Samiti, Khalapur, Sanjay Bhoye. He added that the officials of the Panchayat then go to the respective villages to validate the beneficiaries and only after a final approval, the funds are released.
Each house is allocated a fund of Rs 1.2 lakh, which is deposited directly into the concerned beneficiary’s account. As majority of the homes have been built by beneficiaries, they are also granted an additional Rs 18,000 that comes as a part of the Rural Jobs Guarantee scheme and an additional amount of Rs 12,000 for constructing toilets.
Till date, Mehangal has received Rs. 90,000 as part of his aid from the government. He is waiting for the balance of Rs 30,000 so that he can complete the plaster and tiling work for his home. It will take another month for this remaining amount to reach his account.
Another fortunate beneficiary, Ashok Sambre, a 35 year old laborer earning Rs 200 on a daily basis, has already completed his house with a bright pink shade after a period of two months. Although not yet satisfied, he is awaiting water connection to his home because water still has to be brought from a well for all the household needs.
The Borgaon panchayat comprises 14 villages having 450 houses, which is a blend of houses that are in the process of being constructed and kuccha homes. Around 103 people had been shortlisted in line with the criteria of the housing scheme and approximately 30 homes have been completed in the past six months. The aim is to complete the remaining ones in the coming six months.
In entire Khalapur taluka, Bhoye said, for 289 houses, construction has been completed in 2016-17 and the rest 286 are likely to be completed by March 2018.
Lakhu Dhai, a mother of two teenagers, is not among the ones selected by the scheme. Her name is not part of the list of beneficiaries. “We didn’t receive any response despite submitting our claim.”
As per Bhoye, a few people who have not featured in the 2011 listing, are being individually evaluated by the gram sabha. Once this is done, the process is to forward their claims to the Panchayat Samiti. Bhoye said that they are in the process of getting approvals after they have been verified by the district authorities.
Vasudev Khadke, 29, is waiting for his allowance and he is positive about receiving the fund in less than a month. “I would have to put in some extra,” he said. “If I am building my first house, I want it to be nice and big.”
For Mehangal, the visuals and dimensions of the house were not a matter of concern. He is content with what has been given to him. He says, “At least, my children will lead a better life.”