Wednesday, Dec 03, 2003
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By K.V. Prasad
The programme, being carried out under the National Slum Development Scheme, envisages construction of a 100-sqft. (10' x 10') concrete structure with a fire-proof asbestos roof. Besides one room, it will have a toilet. The sources point out that while the scheme has come as a boon to below poverty line families, the implementing officials are having a tough time, turning down ``unreasonable'' demands by the beneficiaries for increasing the size of the structure to suit their family.
As per the scheme, 90 per cent of the fund is contributed by the Centre, while 10 per cent is paid by the beneficiary. The total cost of the house should not exceed Rs. 20,000. Spending limits have been fixed for each component Rs.6,500 for the asbestos roof, Rs. 5,500 for toilet, Rs. 4,000 for plastering, Rs. 2,000 for flooring and Rs. 2,000 for the compound wall and the partition wall within the house.
The officials wonder how the compound wall and the partition wall (between the room and the toilet) could be constructed within Rs.2,000. ``Our target were 50 houses in the town. We built 25 each in two phases. But, adhering to the stipulations proved a tough task, as many beneficiaries insisted on having more space.''
One of the officials says though the entire structure has to be limited to a 10' x 10' size, there may be instances of its extending to 10' x 16' in various municipal limits. However, they did not reveal whether there were such cases at Mettupalayam but admitted that there was tremendous pressure from the beneficiaries to flout the size limits.
``Most of them are construction workers. Hence, they know the nitty-gritty of this work. During implementation, they virtually battled with us to increase the size of their houses.'' The executing officials will be in for trouble if they give in. ``The Centre will not reimburse to the municipality the excess amount spent. Then, the State Government will raise an audit objection and ultimately the officials involved in executing the scheme will have to pay the difference to the local body.''
Enquiries with officials elsewhere in the district showed that a top ranking official and an engineer of the Pollachi municipality had been pulled up during auditing and asked to pay nearly Rs.7 lakhs for such a ``lapse''.
But, they also point out, the Centrally-imposed restrictions helped in eliminating malpractice such as making excess claims even without incurring any extra expenditure. Verifying whether the size of each shelter conforms to the stipulations, before reimbursement, also helps in checking any malpractice, they say.
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