In the run-up to the assembly election in Telangana in the winter of 2018, the opposition parties consistently attacked K Chandrasekhar Rao for not fulfilling his promise to provide a two bedroom house for the homeless poor in the state. However, what worked for the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) electorally was the optics of the construction work taking place in different parts of Telangana – both urban pockets and rural – that held out hope that a home would soon be a reality.
In terms of scale, it is one of the largest housing projects undertaken by a government. As many as 2.80 lakh two-bedroom houses are being constructed, one lakh of them in Greater Hyderabad municipal limits. Each beneficiary will get a 560 square feet house, consisting of a hall, two rooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen. The most attractive part of the Rs 18000 crore scheme (funded by the state budget, loan from HUDCO and a tie-up for a grant from Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna) is that the beneficiary does not spend a rupee from his/her pocket.
As on today, 1.30 lakh houses have been completed, with another lakh in different stages of construction. All of them would be ready for occupation by next year.
“The entire plan was drawn up by the chief minister himself. He believed that everyone in the family – from grandparents to grandchildren – cannot live in one cramped hall which is why he insisted on two bedrooms. It is to ensure dignity,” says Chitra Ramachandran, Telangana’s Special Chief Secretary, who as Housing Secretary is supervising the entire project (pic above).
The largest of the projects is coming up in Kollur (pic below) on the outskirts of Hyderabad, said to be among the largest in Asia. Here 15660 flats will be home to nearly one lakh people. The scale of the project can be gauged from the fact that 400 Schindler elevators will be installed in these dwelling units. It will be like a gated community with facilities like playgrounds, fire station, creche, anganwadi centre, police station outpost, library built in.
Each flat has cost the Telangana government Rs 7.90 lakh to construct in an urban area (without taking into account the land cost as all the constructions are coming up on government land) while the cost is Rs 5 lakh per unit in a rural area. Unlike other government housing projects where interior designs often differ depending on location, Telangana has gone in for a fixed type Vaastu-compliant design.
Apart from identifying significantly large tracts of land, the biggest challenge was to get real estate developers interested in the project since the margins were too low for them to undertake it. The government sweetened the deal by ensuring contractor bills are cleared within 15-25 days of them being uploaded online and approved. The builders were given concessions like providing sand free of cost, ensuring an agreement with cement companies to fix a bag of cement at Rs 230 for a period of five years, guarding against escalation in price of steel.
Who are the people getting these houses? Largely those who do not have a roof over their head right now though a small percentage of these houses are also in situ constructions where pucca dwellings have been constructed in place of the kuccha shanties they earlier lived in. Many of them have already been handed over for possession. (pic below)
The selection of the beneficiaries was done through a two-level screening process in the village gram sabhas but the demand understandably, is very high. The ratio of applicants to houses is now close to 100 to 1 and the final occupants will be decided through draw of lots.
Chitra Ramachandran says the economic spin-off as a result of the decision to construct such a large mass of houses in the last couple of years has been tremendous.
“It is employment on a large scale in the rural areas. From masons to carpenters to electricians, a lot of people have found jobs in the 2BHK housing scheme,” says Ramachandran.