Centre attempting to weaken LIFE housing project, local body schemes, says Kerala Minister M.B. Rajesh
Kerala Minister for Local Self-Governments M.B. Rajesh on November 15, 2023 lashed out at the Union government for its alleged attempts to “weaken and unnecessarily interfere with” various schemes being implemented through local bodies.
The latest instance of such attempts listed out by the Minister at a press conference is the Union government’s insistence on displaying the logo of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) in front of houses constructed as part of the Kerala Government’s LIFE housing project.
Mr. Rajesh accused the Union government of attempting to disrupt the LIFE housing mission and also of undermining the Kerala model of decentralised planning through its diktats.
“Till date, we have completed 3,56,108 houses under the LIFE Mission since 2016. In addition, 1,25,739 houses are under construction. Kerala provides the highest amount of government housing assistance in the country at ₹4 lakh [per house] uniformly across all schemes. For PMAY Gramin, the Centre’ share is ₹72,000, while the State pitches in with ₹3.28 lakh. For PMAY Urban, the Centre’s share is ₹1.5 lakh. Under PMAY Gramin and Urban, only a total of 1,12,031 houses have got partial funding, while the rest of the 2,44,077 houses have been fully funded by the State. The Centre, which is giving only meagre funding to a few houses, is insisting that these logos claiming that they were built with Central funds be displayed in front of the houses,” said Mr. Rajesh.
He said Kerala has always opposed the idea of putting up boards in front of houses built through government-funded projects by upholding the democratic ideal that government assistance is the right of the people and not generosity on the part of the government. Even houses built under the LIFE housing project do not carry the State government or LIFE Mission logo. The Union government has withheld funds for PMAY for West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh for not displaying the logo, he pointed out.
The Minister also opposed the conditions imposed by the Union government regarding the spending of funds allocated to local bodies. From 2020-21, the Finance Commission and the Union government have imposed major restrictions and conditions on the utilisation of the grant. Such conditions have been imposed even on the spending of the development grants given by the State government to local bodies.
“This affects Kerala the most as the State has decided to provide up to 30% of Plan funds to local bodies. We are currently providing 27.19% of Plan funds to local bodies, amounting to ₹8,258 crore, while most States give only a limited amount. The latest changes will only lead to reversing Kerala’s gains in decentralised planning. The 15th Finance Commission has allocated 60% of the funds as a tied grant, as per which they can be utilised for the limited activities as determined by the Union government. Restrictions are also placed on the spending of the remaining 40% too. Many of these activities stipulated are unsuitable in Kerala’s context,” he said.
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