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Proper houses not a dream any more for Gujarat’s slum dwellers

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Ahmedabad:  As they turn their backs on the miserable lives they once lived and head to the two-room apartments they received in lieu of their shacks, they have much to cheer about.

They are beneficiaries of the Gujarat government’s “Housing for All” programme that has, since 2014, built 2,544 houses, furnished with a toilet and a kitchen, in nine slum localities here. The programme, under the Mukhya Mantri GRUH (Gujarat Rural Urban Housing) Yojana in 2013 — launched when Narendra Modi was Chief Minister — aims to rid urban Gujarat of slums and provide in-situ housing to their dwellers.

The scheme was conceived as a public-private venture, with NGOs roped in to sensitise the dwellers. One such project is the Shantadeep Cooperative Housing Society in Ambavadi, where now 55 newly-built apartments stand.

“I have been coming here before the slums were demolished and new flats were built. I tried to make people aware about the generational shift which they would achieve in a matter of years and about their children who would get the right environment to grow up in,” Neelam Patel, a member of the Mahila Housing Trust of SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association), told IANS.

The Ambavadi slums were razed in 2013 and the building was erected by the following year. Each apartment cost the government Rs 800,000 ($11,700) and was given to the dwellers free of cost. The private builders, during the construction of the houses, were also required to provide temporary rent-free lodging to the slum dwellers.

“It’s like my dream has come true. We used to sleep in the open, had to go for water to the main road where fights were common over the sole tap; nothing of that sort now. I have also called my wife and sons here. I couldn’t ask for more,” Dalpat Singh, an auto-rickshaw driver and resident of the Ambavadi society, told IANS.

There is a plan to provide, over the next two years, such flats to all 700,000 families which reside in slums across Gujarat.

“The term ‘nagar’, as people meant it in the old days, is an abbreviated form of ‘nal, gutter, raasta, (tapwater, sewage, roads), and these are what we are giving to our people,” Punamchand Parmar, Additional Secretary, Urban Development and Urban Housing Department, told a group of visiting journalists.

“I don’t know about other states, but the people of Gujarat are pro-urbanisation. We have the people’s support and the required political will to execute our task,” he added.

He also mentioned the now-famous tourist attraction in the city, Kankaria Lake, which till just a few years back was a stinking water-body surrounded by slums.

The scheme also includes housing for those whose slums were razed at the time of beautifying the Sabarmati riverfront — the river being raised from the dead with water from the Narmada — that made the headlines when Chinese President Xi Jinping came visiting in 2014, the first head of state to visit India after Modi became Prime Minister.

By Vishal Narayan (IANS)

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