Dreaming A Home

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Caught in the heaps of files and procedures, the officials in the rural development department are oblivious of the inhuman conditions in which the rural poor are living after they were promised help in their home construction, reports Umar Khurshid

Mughloo’s wife and children outside their house in Salia Anantnag. KL Image by Umar Khurshid

By sunset, Gulzar Ahmed Mughloo, 40, reached his home in Salia Anantnag, after spending a day with an orthopaedist. A labourer, Mughloo met with an accident in September on the very first day when he resumed work after a month long hiatus.

Post August 5, it was quite a struggle for the daily-wager to find work. He got it at Ranipora, some 20 kms away from his residence. After trekking part of the distance, he got a lift by a biker. As they reached in Ranipora periphery, the motorcyclist lost control and smashed the two-wheeler with a wall. Mughloo survived with multiple fractures in his leg. Since then, Mughloo is unable to step out of his home.

“After the accident, there is no energy left to work normally,” Mughloo said. “The work stoppage has affected my living badly.” His relatives are literally feeding his family and managing his regular checkups at the hospital. His worries are beyond his legs. His crisis now is to manage his two guarantors at the bank where he had borrowed Rs 2.50 lakh loan.

Living in a shed, Mughloo in March 2014, decided to construct a small house for his five sons and a daughter. A friend suggested him to apply for Indira AwaasYojana (IAY) that extends some help to the rural poor in constructing a home. Launched by Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, in 1985, IAY was restructured as Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awaas Yojana (PMGAY) in 2015. It provides financial assistance of RS 1,20,000 in (plains) and Rs 1,30,000 in hilly areas to the certified poor.

Almost a year later in 2015, Mughloo’s name was cleared by the block level officers. He was paid an initial assistance of Rs 20,000 with an advice that his second installment would be released only after he completes construction of three rooms and a bathroom. Constructing home is the responsibility of the beneficiary.

Since the amount could only fund a truckload of bricks and boulders for the bedding, an excited Mughloo moved bank for a loan. He wanted to complete the required structure to enable for the second installment. Two of his friends stood guarantee for Rs 2.5 lakh loan that bank disbursed in 2017.

Somehow, he constructed a ramshackle structure that has three rooms and a bathroom. It lacks roofing, windows, doors and even matting. It has space for three more rooms to be constructed.

“See we don’t have a proper roof,” Mughloo’s wife Hajira, 39, said pointing towards the holes in the roof. “In winters, when it rains or snows, the water seeps in the rooms.”

Except an outdated calendar hanging from a nail, the walls of Mughloo’s single-storey house are bare, black and uneven. As one gets into the house, the rooms tell tales of miseries that Mughloos are accustomed with.

Four years have passed and the torn-off family is yet to receive the second installment. Hajira said the lopsided implementation of an otherwise good scheme is pushing the poor to penury. “Even after visiting the block office repeatedly, nothing has changed on the ground,” Hajira said. “I could sense it a failed scheme.”

With father bed-ridden, it is his teenage son, Nayeem, who is the only hope. Poverty has already forced Nayeem to drop out of the school and is now working as helper to a bus driver. The crisis is a joint family stress. “I would never want any family to witness what we have undergone,” Ishrat, 16, Mughloo’s daughter, who is in the tenth standard said  almost with teary eyes.

They see their crisis in the accident. “As a labourer I was earning 500, a day but since September I am bed ridden,” Mughloo regretted. “I do not contribute even a single penny.” The family is in pain as the guarantors visit them every alternate day.

Barely 3 kms away in Naghbal lives another day labourer, Mohammad Yusuf Mir, 37, sharing almost the same story.

Yusuf applied for IAY help in 2010. A year later, his case was finalised and by March 2011, he got the first installment of Rs 25,000 from BDO Mattan. For second installment, he had to construct three rooms. After selling the family silver, raising some loans and exhausting small savings, he did construct three rooms.

Yusuf’s three minor sons and his wife are living in a makeshift shed outside their under constructional IAY home.

“I cannot tell you how it feels to stay in the shed in this harsh winter. My sons are down with fever and cold thrice among a month,” said Yusuf’s wife, Nazira, 38. “Some families have already gotten the subsequent installments and are living happily but not us.”

She said that every time her husband visits the BDO, he is being either told that funds are not available or to wait for some more time. “This is how our nine years have passed,” Nazira said. “We cannot restart work because we have no money; the slab alone costs more than Rs 1 lakh.”

Ghulam Qadir Wagay, 42, resident of Brad, applied for the scheme nine years ago but still awaits the sanction. His problem is that his name appears in the handwritten papers but not in the computer list!

In March 2010, Wagay’s case was “approved” by the officials after they identified the land. A fortnight later, when he visited the BDO he was given to understand that his first installment was on way. Since then, no official admits that there is a file in his name.

Wagay’s family comprises his three daughters, a young son and wife. They are currently living in two rooms- kitchen and a living room, which is just a ramshackle structure. Wagay’s two elder daughters, married and settled in nearby villages, often feel uncomfortable when invited by their parents.

Yusuf’s wife Nazira outside her under constructional house in Naghbal Anantnag. KL Image by Umar Khurshid

There are numerous such cases in which people are living on the expectation that the government help will one day give them a home. Javid Ahmed Itoo, 32, in Krangsoo village, spent months in chasing the IAY case. Tired, he started constructing on the assurance that when it reaches a certain level the first installment will come. Since nothing came from public coffers, he exhausted his little savings and now lives in a cowshed. His renewed efforts have finally got the officials visit him late 2019. “They took photographs and promised to clear the file,” Itoo said. “I am not updated so far.”

In his neighbourhood lives Bashir Ahmed Najar, 42, in a makeshift shed. Javid said more than him, Bashir deserves the money. Najar got Rs 40,000 as first installment in December 2018. His wait for the second installment has led him to create a shed for his family comprising little children and young wife.

“I finished the work of  windows quickly and received the amount,” Bashir said, while smoking hookah.  “But now, the pending amount is forcing me to live in a tin shed in this harsh winter.”

Bashir could have managed the construction on his own but an accident earlier has literally paralyzed him. “That is why I am so desperate to get the help and complete the house,” he said.

Caught in the files and the processes, the officials have no long stories to tell. To them, these people are mere numbers. Anantnag’s Assistant Commissioner (Development), Mohammad Aslam said the sole reason that applicants have not received the grants is the lack of funds.

“We have sent a proper list to the higher ranks and the money will be released soon,” Aslam said. He hopes that his department will improve its outreach. Under the Housing For All initiative, he said the department is looking forward to provide the assistance to all sanctioned cases. “In Anantnag district, there are more than 22,000 cases pending and they all will be cleared.”

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