EWS Housing, as being implemented in Gurgaon, underscores the spectacular clash between India’s welfare policies and the 'free' markets. What is allotted soon changes hands, because there is a huge difference between the price at which it has to be allotted and the market price of that location and space. It is the difference between textbook policies and ground realities, that leaves ample scope for corruption, right from the time of application. The market forces take over the entire process: from how allotments are done, to how transfers take place, to the time the property is registered.
Confusion on what constitutes EWS Housing, who should be eligible, and whether these are separate entities from the Common Areas in group housing complexes has further complicated matters. It has put a question mark on the intent and execution of this housing policy, meant for the welfare of the Economically Weaker Sections in the City.
Colonel B.K Dhawan, President Emeritus of Silver Oaks Society, alleges that the EWS Housing policy has been flouted blatantly in the entire City, with builders allotting these flats on commercial considerations. The purpose of the EWS scheme, as per the Haryana Apartment Owners Act, was to house the service staff of Group Housing Schemes – those that would run the water supply systems, manage the power supply, maintain and manage the lifts, provide security cover, and lend additional support services. However, people with money have forced out the original allotees, with the connivance of builders and property dealers,” he asserts. In Silver Oaks, 150 EWS apartments have been allotted to outsiders, whereas those working in the complex have to live in far away places. Dhawan says that this makes it difficult for the residents to get help in case of emergencies and infrastructure breakdowns.
Dhawan says that EWS flats are part of the Common Area of the residential complex, and so cannot be sold or divided. They have become the common property of all the apartment owners, and their sale is in violation of the law.
With EWS houses being diverted to buyers who are not eligible for this type of housing, questions are also being raised about the functioning of the Town and Country Planning Department, that oversees the implementation of the scheme. Amit Jain, Director General of the newly formed Federation of Apartment Owners Association (FAOA), says that what is happening in the EWS space has almost crippled the functioning of group housing schemes. “The prices of these welfare houses has skyrocketed, as these can be registered as separate entities. “It is surprising how the flats meant for service staff have adopted an independent character of their own, despite the fact that power, water and other facilities come from the main housing society,” alleges Jain.
The apartment associations contend that if these EWS schemes are to be treated independently by the builders and the government alike, then house buyers in group housing schemes should not be made to pay for buildings that will not benefit them in any way in the future. Jain says that the group housing schemes in India were inspired by the Amercian model, and even the Apartment Owners Act has been copied from Uncle Sam. “While the letter has been imported perfectly, what lacks is the spirit to implement the law in a fair manner,” alleges Jain.
While the Apartment owners question the efficacy of this EWS policy, there are hints of a scam that has happened in the name of affordable housing in Haryana. As per R.S Rathee, President of the Gurgaon Citizens Council, around 200 acres of land, on which 40,000 houses were to be built, has vanished in thin air.
Rathee says that a policy for low cost and affordable housing had evolved in the state from 2006 to 2009, to provide affordable dwelling units to people from the low and middle income categories – to mitigate the shortage of housing units, and to help every family own a house or a flat. As per the Haryana government memo No. 5/16/2006-2TCP dated May 29, 2009 and 7/16/2006-2TCP dated August 20, 2009, issued by the Financial Commissioner and Principal Secretary, Town and Country Planning, the selling price of flats in low cost housing projects was not to exceed Rs. 4 lakhs for the BPL section (15 per cent) of the flats; and the cost of dwelling units under the affordable housing (85 per cent) category could not exceed Rs. 16 lakhs, in the Gurgaon-Manesar area.
Rathee alleges that these houses in Gurgaon, and the rest of Haryana, were to be completed in 3 years. “We want to know which builders have taken these licenses for EWS Housing, how much land has been earmarked for this purpose, how many dwelling units have been built, how many are yet to be built, and how many units have been handed over to people?,” asks Rathee. He believes that a number of builders stand to benefit from this scheme, by getting the land use later changed to general category housing.
Interestingly, this Scheme was launched on a first-come-first-served basis, and the government had relaxed the 20 per cent area limit for group housing project in a sector, to 30 per cent. The minimum size of the EWS flat was not to be less than 25 sq mts, and for affordable units it was not to be less than 48 sq mts.
To check the clear misuse of plots meant for EWS Housing, the Department of Town and Country Planning has revised its policy for allotment, in builder colonies. As per the TCP policy, the coloniser will have to transfer all the EWS category plots to the Housing Board, Haryana at the rate Rs. 500/- per sq. yard. Residential units will be constructed by the Board, and allotted at a reasonable cost to BPL families. To prevent the misuse of these residential houses, the Board can also offer these units under a rental scheme.
V.S Yadav, Executive Engineer, Housing Board, Haryana, says that their department is committed to providing cost effective houses to the beneficiary families that are identified by the District Administration as Below Poverty Line (BPL). “We are going to construct triple storied flats in the plots that are transferred to the Department, and allot them to the beneficiaries,” he informs. The Department will construct 1350 flats under EWS Housing this year, whereas 609 under construction apartments will be handed over to BPL families soon. The flats will be sold at a nominal price of Rs. 4 lakhs, and the size of these units is 50 sq meters.
Asked about housing options for migratory labour, Yadav says that the Department is considering giving some of the flats on rent, for such use.
To ensure that the EWS houses meant for the working population of the housing complexes are not misused, a number of RWAs have approached the Competition Commission of India (CCI), and the courts. Dr. Anchita Patil, Secretary of ‘The Legend’ housing complex in Sector 57, says that they have obtained a stay order from the court to ensure that these houses are not sold in the market to people who have no stake in the housing complex. “The argument process is over, and now we are expecting a decision in a couple of days. Our contention is that the houses meant for service staff should not be misused,” says Patil.
The RWA of Heritage condominium has gone a step further and approached the CCI to prevent the builders from misusing EWS houses. “We have appealed to the CCI to make the law clear – that these houses are meant for the weaker sections that serve the society,” says Shefali, a resident of the Heritage complex.
The reason for rampant misuse of these flats, suggest observers, is that they are allowed to be sold in the independent market, and are also allowed to be registered. “There is need to find out who is presently living in these EWS houses. If this is done honestly, the policy makers will realise their folly, and understand that the time has come for reform,” says Sanjay Sharma, MD Qubrex.
Sharma further says that the rate of several EWS flats, in good locations in Gurgaon, has gone into multiples of what these were sold for initially. EWS flats on Golf Course Road have almost touched Rs. 40 lakhs, and those on Sohna Road are being sold for somewhere between Rs. 20 to 25 lakhs, he adds.
Former town planner Raj V. Singh opines that the provision of 50 acres of land exclusively for the weaker sections, as per the Gurgaon Master Plan 2031, is another stroke of poor planning. As per him, the residential options for weaker sections of society need to be wedded with their workplaces, else the schemes will not deliver the right results. “There is need to develop shelters where the labour stays. Later on, genuine beneficiaries should be identified from amongst them and allotted plots and flats,” he suggests.
Despite innumerable complaints and court cases being lodged by the City residents over the issue, the Town and Country Planning department says that nothing is amiss in the policy, and in the allotment of EWS flats and plots in Gurgaon. Senior Town Planner, Gurgaon, R.K Singh told Friday Gurgaon that the department keeps an eye on the allotment process, and wherever discrepancies are observed appropriate action is taken. Singh further says that the TCP Department is mulling more user friendly options for BPL/EWS families, but the policy is still under the consideration of higher authorities. He also says that the identification of beneficiaries is done by the District Administration, and allotment is made through public advertisements, and by draw of lots. “It is not right to say that EWS housing in condominiums is meant only for service staff. Any one who is a BPL cardholder, and a resident of a nearby village or town in the State, is eligible to get such an accommodation,” he asserts.
Experts say that the dream of providing housing to all, particularly in Gurgaon, may remain a chimera, because of the rising cost of land. The government will have to ensure that the housing schemes meant for the poor are delivered.
Experts however opine that there is need to ensure that the scheme is planned well. Due to affordability, a number of times compromises are made on the size and location of these houses; and thousands of one room tenements in high density areas may just end up as concretised versions of slums.
The New Policy
As per the current policy of the Haryana government a person is eligible for EWS Housing only if he/she has a BPL card, and belongs to the State. The harsh truth is that thousands of migrants from other states, even if they have been living here for the past 20 years, and fall in the BPL bracket, have no hope of getting subsidised housing. It is a different matter that the Haryana Apartment Owners Act 1983, which is the Act that should govern all group housing complexes, clearly defines EWS Housing for the benefit of the service staff that support the running and maintenance of the group housing infrastructure and facilities.
Gurgaon Deputy Commissioner P.C Meena told Friday Gurgaon that the government had to come up with this policy because it had become difficult to implement the scheme within the given rules and regulations. There was ambiguity in the identification of the beneficiaries, which had allowed unscrupulous people to misuse the EWS Housing facilities. “Therefore, being a resident of Haryana and having a BPL card have been made the clear eligible criteria for EWS Housing – whether offered by the State or by private builders,” he said. Meena further asserted that the District Administration will ensure that the allotment process is fair and transparent. Recently he had recommended the cancellation of allotment by four builders, as the process was not followed properly, and eligible applicants could not submit their forms. “There were a number of complaints and the government took action,” he said.
He also confirmed that this rule is applicable to all group housing schemes (apartment complexes) as well. However, experts opine that despite this policy, the State cannot override the Haryana Apartment Owners Act 1983.