Politicians, contractors corner J&K homes for homeless: The Indian Express
Srinagar: Abdul Rashid Mir: Councillor from Tawheed Ganj, Baramulla. Wife also a councillor.
Sheikh Khalid: Son of Arampora councillor Mohammad Ramzan Sheikh. Inherited agricultural land. Family owns two-storeyed house, orchard within Baramulla limits.
Ismail Dar: Owns industrial unit in Azad Ganj, Baramulla.
Mohammad Ayub Sofi: Money lender. Owns shopping complex at Azad Ganj, Baramulla.
Showket Akhoon: Registered government contractor. Construction business.
Gayazuddin Bhat: Government employee, posted with Irrigation department.
These six are among 110 Baramulla beneficiaries of the Integrated Housing & Slum Development Programme (IHSDP), a Centre-sponsored welfare scheme meant for the homeless and those in slums. This list of beneficiaries has now come under the scanner after complaints that many of them are affluent and politically connected.
J&K Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, who holds the Housing and Urban Development portfolio and handed over 110 cheques to the “shelterless” in Baramulla, said the entire Baramulla list is being verified again.
“After receiving complaints about the scheme, I have asked all Deputy Commissioners to re-examine the cases.”
But the scandal is not confined to Baramulla alone. “A few days ago, when cheques were being distributed in Poonch (Jammu), only 50 of 250 selected cases were found deserving. Officials dealing with this scheme have been told that beneficiaries should not be selected on the basis of their political affiliation or proximity to a politician,” Tara Chand said.
He is not prepared to take any blame, saying the lists of beneficiaries were drawn by the department before he took charge of the Ministry.
He said anyone found guilty of drawing up a wrong list would be taken to task and money would be recovered from those found non-eligible. “For transparency, I have asked three departments to monitor the scheme.”
But officials implementing the scheme are pointing fingers at councillors and officials of municipal councils and committees, claiming it was they who prepared the lists with an eye on local body elections due in May.
The J&K government had submitted a detailed project report on 36 urban towns for construction of houses for the homeless, seeking financial assistance of Rs 136.84 crore under the Centre-sponsored IHSDP. Approval was granted for 37 projects involving construction of 6,670 houses. Of the approved Rs 110 crore, Rs 39.5 crore has already been handed over to the state Housing & Urban Development department.
The basic objective of the scheme is to strive for holistic slum development with a healthy and enabling urban environment by providing adequate shelter and basic infrastructure facilities to slum dwellers of identified urban areas.
Under the scheme, each beneficiary will get Rs 80,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh in three separate instalments — the Central-State share is 80:20 but for J&K, the funding pattern is in the ratio 90:10.
Javid Ahmad, Additional Secretary, State Urban Infrastructure Development Agency (SUDA) — his department monitors construction of dwelling units for homeless people — admits that complaints have been received about implementation of this scheme.
“In Basholi (Jammu), after complaints were received about selection of non-deserving people in the IHSDP scheme, the Executive Officer of the Council was attached. In Baramulla, a high-level committee is already probing the distribution of cheques among the non-deserving,” he said.
According to Ahmad, the entire scheme will be completed by the end of 2011. “As per our figures, we have already distributed 50 per cent payment among families for construction of houses.” He said 11 towns in Jammu and 14 in Kashmir have been included in the scheme.