Four years after the 2BHK scheme was formulated with the aim of providing housing to all citizens from economically weaker sections, beneficiaries say they are caught in an unending cycle of delays.

Legal troubles to caste discrimination Telanganas 2BHK scheme is dogged by delaysAll images: Charan Teja
news Housing Saturday, September 07, 2019 - 11:13

"We are blessed and lucky. Our government heard our pleas and offered houses to all of us; our lives are far better now. We can sit in our houses comfortably even if there is a heavy downpour," says N Kamaraju (55), assertively sitting in his modest 2BHK (two-bedroom, hall, kitchen) house in IDH colony.

IDH colony in Secunderabad's New Boiguda is one of the oldest localities in the city. Until a few years ago, the area was known for cramped houses but now, a couple of multi-storied buildings amidst flexible service roads are seen. This is where the dream of as many as 396 families from three bastis/slums came true as the Telangana government accommodated them in 2BHK houses under its flagship housing scheme.

IDH colony

Until November 2015, Kamaraju, like many slum dwellers in the city was aspiring for a pakka house. While the government finished the pilot project in the stipulated time, not everyone has been so lucky.

Take the case of E Naresh, who is in his late 40s and lives in Kodanda Reddy Nagar. Naresh’s family of four live in a cramped tin shed with hardly any space to move.

Naresh says there are almost 50 other families like him who have been waiting for 2BHK housing for over two years in the area, and scores more in other parts of the city. The beneficiaries believe they are caught in an unending cycle of delays due to official negligence, caste discrimination and legal hurdles that perpetually stall the process.   

Kodanda Reddy Nagar

The aim for dignity housing

In October 2015, the Telangana government under Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao formulated the 2BHK housing scheme, which aims to provide housing to all eligible citizens who hail from economically weaker sections. In Hyderabad alone, the target is to provide housing facilities for over 1 lakh beneficiaries with zero contribution from them in 119 such projects.

The target groups under the scheme are economically weaker sections/poor. In rural areas, SC/ST communities are allocated 50%, while minorities get 7% and the remaining 43% is for other beneficiaries. In urban areas, SC's get 17%, ST's 6%, and minorities get 12%. The remainder is for everyone else.  

In several areas like Maisamma Nagar, Potti Sriramulu Nagar of Bansilalpet and LBS Nagar, Kodanda Reddy Nagar of Kavaadiguda, the projects are either facing long delays or getting unceremoniously halted. According to rights activists, years of delay are affecting the dwellers' livelihood and adding to their economic burden.

In Potti Sriramulu Nagar (PSR), a 2BHK complex is being built near a graveyard where a slum with around 200 families used to exist.The site was taken up for the construction of the project after evacuation of the dwellers in 2017. 

Sanjeev Kumar, housing and tenurial rights activist of Montfort Social Institute (MSI) in Hyderabad said, "Around 200 families were evacuated from the site on the promise of early completion of the project. Due to this delay, they're forced to bear house rents for shelters along with loss of employment."

Construction at the site in PSR Nagar

Most slum dwellers from PSR Nagar earlier used to work in mechanic shops and as daily wage workers in the neighborhood. With their evacuation, scores have had to relocate to different places — a common occurrence in several such projects throughout the city. Despite this, aspiring beneficiaries of the projects remain hopeful.

In Hyderabad, GHMC (Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation) is the nodal agency which is supervising the projects across the city. Officials are claiming that the projects are seeing progress despite certain technical blocks.

Legal troubles 

In less than one acre of land, as many as 46 families belonging to the Madiga caste, a marginalised Dalit group, reside in LBS Nagar of Kavadiguda. Twenty months ago, the government had laid the foundation stone, the supposed beneficiaries vacated the place optimistically.

On January 10 last year, KT Rama Rao (KTR), the then Minister for IT Municipal Administration and Urban Development, Industries and Commerce along with Mahamood Ali, Deputy Chief Minister and others participated in the foundation stone ceremony assuring the completion of project on priority basis.

However, within a few days, the dreams of the basti dwellers entered a limbo phase as a local advocate along with nearby residents of certain apartments moved the High Court. The petitioners argued that the allocated land is a park as per the Hyderabad Metro Development Authority (HMDA) master plan and therefore the government could not allocate or allow construction on the site.

Work halted at LBS Nagar

But the basti dwellers say that their families have been staying there for at least 70 years whereas the apartment and individual buildings came up in the last three to four decades.

45-year-old Babu Rao, a daily wage earner and a local leader of the basti is now left without a home, though he has a family of four. Speaking to TNM, he said, "We thought our woes had come to an end and we felt happy about the government's move, but soon that trouble came in legal issues, and all of us are now struggling to survive." 

Babu Rao alleged that few locals who came after them are labelling them as encroachers, adding, "When the first petition was filed, the officials responded with a counter stating that the land was given to the GHMC, which allotted it to us for housing as per the due procedure. But soon, the second petition was filed, which officials have failed to file a counter."

According to Babu Rao, around 250 people were left on the streets as a result, and finding houses for rent became a challenge. Even if they found one, affording monthly rents took its toll. 

This limbo and uncertainty disrupts the livelihood cycle of those like Babu Rao as many of them, especially women who work as household help, are dependant on jobs found in the vicinity. Finding jobs in a completely new area is an uphill task, they say.

When TNM visited the project site, it was found locked and work seemed to have stopped at the basement level. 

The dwellers allege that a lawyer who stays right near the site teamed up with a few powerful persons in the locality to strip them off their housing rights in the guise of protection of an "existing park". 

Caste  

While the matter is still in the purview of the court, there is much more than what meets the eye. In contrast to 'popular' perception of urban spaces, the caste identity of the basti dwellers seems to be the reason behind the legal tussle.

"They don't want us to be there because of our caste. They waited until we vacated the place and moved court even as the government started the project. They are after our lives. Everyone, mainly caste Hindus, are opposing us; either by claiming that the land was allotted for a park or complaining about a wine-shop nearby. It's all lies," Babu Rao alleges. 

Activists allege that along with the "casteist intention" of the petitioners, concerned officials are also to be blamed, due to their alleged negligence in filing a counter.

Shankar P,  National Secretary of Dalit Bahujan Front, who visited the basti along with few other  activists working on housing rights of the underprivileged sections says, "It is injustice to file a case in court against Dalits interests who are residing in the same place for nearly 80 years. It is because they didn't want their (Dalits) houses amidst their buildings." 

He also demanded that a case be registered under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

"This dignity housing should be completed on priority basis like any other flagship scheme of the government," he added.

Official negligence?

Just less than a km away from LBS Nagar, in another basti in Kodanda Reddy Nagar, 46 Dalit families are yet to see the project begin. According to them, it's been more than two years since the concerned revenue authorities have issued possession certificate for the purpose of 2BHK scheme, yet no progress has been made. The possession certificate is given prior to the demolition and is based on an extensive household survey that the TRS-led government had done in 2014. However, there has been no move to demolish the houses in the Kodanda Reddy Nagar since 2017. 

They all point fingers at the Revenue Department and GHMC’s apathy, citing lack of coordination or negligence on their part for the delay.  

E Naresh, a daily wage earner, points to the 1BHK his family of four are staying in. 

"We have been staying here for as long as we remember. The government recognised it and gave possession certificates in June 2017 but failed to start the project. We are living in these thatched rooms. if heavy rain comes, everything is gone."

The men and women of the basti are daily wage earners, who make life out of working in construction sites and as domestic helps. The houses and tin-sheds seem to be either damaged fully or partly and space within the structures are cramped.

A family in Kodanda Reddy Nagar

E Naresh added, "It's been more than two years. When we go to GHMC officials, they ask us to go to Revenue officials claiming that the land was not yet given to GHMC. Revenue officials turn us to GHMC stating that it’s already done."

M Anjaneyulu from NGO ActionAid said, "The project in IDH colony is ideal and exceptionally comfortable, but there is unnecessary delay in completion of projects in other areas. The government should clear all pending proposals. They should also address the legal barriers with special interest and complete the projects to accommodate the people as early as possible."

A Hyma Kumari, coordinator with MSI alleged, "It appears there is clear negligence and discrimination with regard to completion or progress of the projects in different sites in the city. Government's nodal agencies should speed up the projects on priority basis."

Officials cite red tape

However, the GHMC officials are claiming that the delay in the project is happening due to several technical fallouts ranging from shortage of funds to disputes over sites.

Speaking to TNM, Suresh Kumar, chief engineer (Housing) GHMC said, "As of now, 90% of works have been completed for over 40,000 houses, the remaining are at different levels of progress."

When asked about the delay, he added, "There is a delay with regard to some sites due to shortage of funds, contractors are halting the construction citing the delay in the release of bills and also due to changes in the designs. Another kind of delay is mainly due to dwellers’ unwillingness to move out of the site and for us it's taking time to convince them."

When asked about alleged delay and negligence in filing counter petitions in the High Court, the chief engineer said, "Cases where there is a legal dispute are being looked into by the Revenue Department and there are follow ups. The Revenue Department has given that land to GHMC as it was an existing slum." 

Despite this, the dejected 'beneficiaries' are still hopeful. "Earlier, we were surviving, by working as househelps or daily wage labourers. Now that we had to move out of that neighbourhood, it has certainly become tough to find shelter as well as livelihood. We hope that the government will take swift action to resolve the matter and provide us housing," Babu Rao says.

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