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Monday, June 24, 2024

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Monday, June 24, 2024

Decent Shelter

By the Editor

The well-known Hindi slogan, Roti, Kapda aur Makkan (bread, clothing and shelter) and popularised by the famous Hindi movie bearing the same name signifies the basic needs of human society, irrespective of habitat or economic status. A house is a place where members of the family live and stay together for safety and security. To have a house of one’s own is the desire of every individual. However, decent housing conditions with minimum facilities in a healthy environment is essential, especially in rural areas, which are food providers. As population increases and land becomes scarce, agriculture starts to decline and people migrate to towns and cities in search of better employment opportunities. After ‘roti’ and ‘kapda’, people face great hardships in finding suitable homes in the new environment. Even in rural areas, on account of ignorance and poverty, villagers cannot afford to construct good living quarters. Hence, out of their meagre income, they somehow manage to build mud or thatch houses for residential purposes as well as for storing food grains. But because they are not properly built, soon they become dilapidated and unusable, thus leading to sickness and destruction of food grains. Proper housing facilities are a serious problem that successive governments have recognised to be an all-India issue to be tackled and solved. Even the slogan of the earlier government, “Houses for All by 2000 AD,” did not succeed.

Urbanisation is a great obstacle for planners and administrators due to the unchecked growth and haphazard conditions. Housing shortage and even, if houses are available, rent is very costly and unaffordable by common people, leading to the emergence of slums where the living conditions are deplorable and unimaginable, which ultimately become breeding grounds for various diseases. Nearly half of Meghalaya’s population is living below the poverty line and if the trend continues, the position will be more serious in the future. Youths, the future of the state and of the nation, are facing innumerable problems and many of them seek shelter and refuge in alcohol and drugs, which are a social menace. In urban centres, people have to spend a substantial amount of their income to pay rent for accommodation, the remaining amount to meet food and other expenses. Various housing schemes in the past did not succeed due to many reasons and which really need introspection in order to avoid mistakes in the future.

One year after the NDA government came into power at the Centre, it launched the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) to provide a home for every homeless person by 2022. The scheme is bifurcated into PMAY (Urban) Mission for urban areas and PMAY (Gramin) Scheme for rural areas. Under PMAY, the intended beneficiaries will not only be the poor and backward classes but also those who belong to the middle class, as the situation arises. Eligibility criteria for both categories have been clearly laid down and action has been insisted on transparency with the help of digital verification. During the last six years (2015-2021), the government has handed over 2.25 crore houses in different parts of the country and it is expected that by the end of 2022, the target will be achieved.

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