CPI protests delay in affordable housing project in AP, calls for occupation of homes

Leaders from left parties have alleged that the allocation of affordable housing under a Union government scheme is being delayed for political reasons.
TIDCO housing colony in Kurnool
TIDCO housing colony in Kurnool
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With growing resistance against the Andhra Pradesh government’s alleged negligence towards allocating houses constructed under the Union government’s affordable housing scheme, district authorities imposed prohibitory orders in many areas to curb protests. Many leaders of the Communist Party of India (CPI) were placed under house arrest, and activists have alleged that ward volunteers discouraged beneficiaries of the scheme from joining the protests. 

The CPI had given a call to beneficiaries to occupy completed houses, which were lying unallocated, by performing housewarming rituals on Monday morning. CPI leaders were preemptively placed under house arrest, and the housing colonies were reportedly barricaded by police in many towns, to foil the protests. Several district authorities also issued explanations for the delay in allocating houses on Sunday night, asking beneficiaries to refrain from protesting.  

Status of TIDCO housing in the state 

The houses under question are being constructed by the Andhra Pradesh Township and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (APTIDCO), the state level nodal agency for Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) — an affordable housing scheme for the poor in urban areas. TIDCO is responsible for planning, development, financing and implementation of affordable housing in the state, under Municipal Administration and Urban Development Department. 

CPI(M) state secretariat member Chigurupati Baburao said that the houses pending allocation were constructed under a project taken up by the previous TDP government. “They started towards the end of their term. Some houses were completed towards the end of the term, but the TDP had planned to distribute the houses only after the elections. When the YSRCP came to power, the work on incomplete housing projects came to a halt,” said Baburao. 

CPI leaders have also claimed that thousands of houses across the 13 districts of the state are lying vacant in spite of construction being completed, with some of them even being used as COVID-19 quarantine centres, in places like Eluru and Guntur. Leaders and activists have alleged that the YSRCP government is dragging its feet on the completion and allocation of TIDCO houses due to a political grudge, as the project was started by the TDP. 

“The houses are built by public money. People have a right to it. Just because they were started during the TDP rule, to obstruct and delay their occupation is terrible,” alleged CPI state secretary K Ramakrishna. 

Delay by government 

On the other hand, the YSRCP has announced its own housing scheme called YSR Pedalandariki Illu (housing for the poor), as part of its flagship Navaratnalu welfare programs. Under this scheme, house sites have been promised to all eligible beneficiaries whose income is below the poverty line. At first, it was announced that the house site pattas would be distributed in March this year, on the occasion of Ugadi. The date was then postponed a few more times, due to the pandemic as well as legal complications over the process of land acquisition. 

“The state government scheme has been stalled because of court litigation. But there are no legal complications with the TIDCO houses. Yet, they refuse to allocate them. The government must allocate at least the completed houses,” Baburao said. 

Beneficiaries have paid amounts ranging from Rs 25,000 to Rs 1 lakh as subsidised payment for these houses, he said. “Most of them had taken loans and have to pay interest now. In some cases, the government had helped beneficiaries take bank loans. Some of the beneficiaries have now been issued notices by the banks, asking them to start paying instalments. This has caused unrest among the beneficiaries,” he added. 

According to Vizag CPI city secretary Marupilla Paidiraju, over the past couple of weeks, party leaders and beneficiaries had been demanding the allocation of completed houses to be done by Deepavali. With the call for occupying houses on Monday, district authorities have issued explanations for the delay, ranging from delay in providing amenities for the housing colonies to discrepancies in the list of beneficiaries. 

In a press statement issued on Sunday evening, Krishna District Collector Md Imtiaz said that the 27,872 TIDCO houses in the district are in various stages of completion. He said that infrastructure works include electricity, drainage, water supply, connecting roads etc., will be completed soon, and plans are being prepared to do so. Following a meeting with revenue and TIDCO authorities, the District Collector asked beneficiaries to not be provoked by certain groups, and that any such measures taken under provocation will be considered illegal, referring to the call to occupy houses. 

Condemning the house arrests of leaders and the prohibitory orders, Paidiraju said that the only those beneficiaries were trying to occupy the houses which have already been allocated to them in government records. 

“When houses and beneficiaries are both ready, and it's been more than a year and a half since  the YSRCP came to power, why can't the houses be assigned? Finally we had to call for people to occupy their houses," CPI National Secretary K Narayana said. 

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