The Government has released the guidelines for ‘Revised Integrates Housing Scheme 2016’ to extend housing subsidies to workers from various industries including mining & beedi. While the subsidy amount has substantially increased, issues exist.
Recognising the need for state support in enabling citizens to realise the right to adequate shelter, a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the Ministry of Labour and Employment released the guidelines for the Revised Integrated Housing Scheme, 2016.
Who are the intended beneficiaries?
The scheme initially started for the Beedi/Non-Coal mine workers in the year 1989. After increasing the central subsidy multiple times, the scheme was named the ‘Revised Integrated Housing Scheme (RIHS)’ for the first time in 2004. The scheme was further revised in 2007. The current scheme is a modified version of the earlier scheme with an increase in the subsidy amount.
The intended beneficiaries of the scheme are workers in the following industries
- iron ore mines;
- manganese ore mines;
- chrome ore mines;
- limestone ore mines;
- dolomite ore mines;
- mica mines;
- beedi industries; and
- cine industries
The following are the mandatory conditions for beneficiaries to avail this scheme
- Should be registered with the Labour Welfare Organisation
- Have Aadhaar registration
- Possess a Jan Dhan bank account
- Have land in their name or own land along with other family members or have been allotted or leased land by the State government or Gram Sabha. (The land must be at least 60 sq. mts in area. However, exceptions can be made for EWS/SC/ST members who are required to follow the standards and specifications enlisted in the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana.)
- Do not own any other pucca house in Indian territory in their own, their spouse’s or their dependent’s name (even after submitting their application); and
- Have not availed any housing subsidy in the past from either the Central or the State government in their name or their spouse’s name or their dependent’s name.
What is the Entitlement?
The scheme provides a subsidy amount of Rs 1.5 lakh to the beneficiary to construct only one house during their lifetime. The house must be constructed within 18 months and must adhere to local building regulations.
The subsidy amount is released in 3 stages through Direct Benefit Transfer:
- 25% – advance (Rs 37,500)
- 60% – on reaching the lintel level (Rs 90,000)
- 15% – after 100% completion and report of inspection by the Labour Welfare Organisation (Rs 22,500)
No deposit is required to avail the subsidy and loans or financial assistance can be sought from legal sources even after availing the subsidy. If the subsidy amount is used by the beneficiary to obtain a bank loan, then the full subsidy amount can be released in one transaction to the beneficiary’s Jan Dhan account maintained by the same bank.
There is no upper limit to the floor area of the house. However, a minimum floor area of 30 sq. mts in metropolitan areas and 60 sq. mts in rural and other city areas must be adhered to.
The house thus constructed cannot be sold or transferred until the lapse of 15 years after complete construction of the house. The only exception is when the house is transferred to legal heirs after the death of the beneficiary. This legal heir will not be eligible for any further housing subsidy even if she is an eligible applicant.
The Application Process
The application process and implementation of the scheme will be monitored and guided by the State Level Screening and Monitoring Committee, chaired by the Welfare Commissioner. At the beginning of the financial year, the number of housing units for States will be indicated based on pro-rata calculation of beneficiary, expected expenditure and number of workers registered in the region.
Until online application forms are made available, filled hard copy application forms must be submitted by the worker to the nearest Labour Welfare Organisation or the office of Welfare Commissioner, whichever is available and closer. An acknowledgement slip that lists the date and time of receipt of application will be given to the worker. This is important because the scheme operates on a first-cum-first-serve basis.
The application will then be sent to the Welfare Commissioner’s office (in case the application is not received by the Welfare Commission) and the original documents attached to the application form will be verified. An electronic record of applications will be prepared. This will be followed by an on-site verification of the land and other particulars to identify eligible beneficiaries.
Thereafter, a priority list will be electronically formulated for:
- Persons with disability of 40% or more and transgender
- Women headed households (including widows)
A regional proposal along with recommendations shall be sent by the Welfare Commissioner to the Director General Labour Welfare for administrative approval and release of subsidy.
In the final selected list, 3% of the applications must be from persons with disability (including 1% from transgender), 50% of the applications must be from women headed households and 47% of the applications must be from others.
A copy of the final Selection list must be put up online and pasted on the notice board of the Welfare Commissioner’s office. A waiting list of up to 25% must also be accordingly displayed.
Grievances must be presented to the Welfare Commissioner.
Standards and Specifications
The constructed house must:
- Be connected by road
- Have basic facilities such as electricity, drinking water, sanitation and water storage.
- Have at least two bedrooms or hall with kitchen, a bathroom, a toilet and a closet for drying clothes.
- Comply with earthquake resistance norms formulated by the Central Building Research Institute.
- Have an estimated life of at least 50 years
A housing subsidy scheme was first started by the Central government in 1989 for beedi and non-coal mine workers with a subsidy of Rs 1,000. Revisions in 1994, 2001 and 2004 eventually raised the subsidy to Rs 40,000. The 2007 scheme required that beneficiaries have their own land for constructing a house and mandated that each house have a floor area of 160 sq. ft (nearly 15 sq. mts) with a living room, a closeted cooking space, a bath room and a toilet.
The scheme itself notes that a revision was necessary as houses constructed under previous schemes were of poor quality, incapable of withstanding natural disasters and insufficient to accommodate the average household.
The present scheme has substantially increased the subsidy amount, removes the upper limit on the estimated construction costs of the house, mandates Aadhaar registration for direct benefit transfer and no longer requires a minimum contribution of Rs 5,000 from the beneficiaries.
What are the issues then?
In response to a question in the Lok Sabha, the Ministry of Labour and Employment reported that a fund of Rs 55.12 crores had been allocated for the financial year of 2016-17 to aid in providing housing facility to about 14000 workers. However, certain issues persist:
- Mandatory Aadhaar Registration – The scheme requires beneficiaries to be registered with Aadhaar despite the UIDAI itself noting that people engaged in hard labour (such as mine workers) are people who will be excluded from the biometric system due to poor fingerprint quality.
- High Penalty – The scheme imposes a high penalty on beneficiaries if the houses are not constructed as per the prescribed standards or are not completed within the time period of 18 months. The amount of subsidy along with the high interest of 14.5% p.a. (or as determined by the government) will be recovered from the beneficiary as arrears of land revenue. It might be difficult to construct the house with the given specifications using the subsidy amount alone.
- Low Awareness – The government’s expectation to reach about 14000 workers seems a little far-fetched. The number of beneficiaries of the scheme is on a downward spiral. As per the data shared by the government in the Lok Sabha, the number of beneficiaries of the scheme decreased from 12323 in 2013-14 to 8990 in 2015-16. Close to 83% of the beneficiaries of the scheme since 2013-14 are just from the three states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh & Odisha.