Thursday, November 22, 2012

Shaken Modi stirs Guj Housing Board

Board Meeting Today, First Scheme During BJP Rule Expected

Ankur Jain | TNN

Ahmedabad: The Congress ‘dream home’ scheme has forced the Narendra Modi government to reactivate the defunct Gujarat Housing Board (GHB) which has not launched a single scheme for the urban poor in the last decade of Modi rule in Gujarat.
    The GHB board will meet on Wednesday to chalk out ways to counter the Congress campaign which attracted nearly 28 lakh women for the ‘Ghar nu Ghar’ scheme in a mad rush across some 560 special camps on Monday. GHB has been woken out of slumber by a worried Modi government which feels the Congress scheme will hurt its urban vote-banks and appeal to women.
    After the Congress announced the scheme on August 2 and distributed nearly one lakh forms to women on the Rakshabandhan day, the CM’s office cracked the whip on GHB chairman Jayantilal Barot, a BJP leader who was once close to Modi but is being now kept at a distance. The GHB immediately floated tenders to rope in private consultants for high-rise housing schemes in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot where it plans to announce construction of around 9,000 higher, middle, and lower-income houses.
    “We have a GHB board meeting on Wednesday where we will discuss the project and decide on the date to launch it,” said Barot. “We had not launched any scheme as there was no visible demand for such houses and GHB had to recover large amount of arrears. But now we see a demand and will begin construction soon,” said Barot.
    The fact that he has been able to see demand is only an indicator that the Congress campaign has been an eyeopener for BJP. That BJP was trying to underplay the phenomenal success of the Congress campaign was also evident in the naive statement of state urban development minister Nitin Patel that “the new schemes of GHB have nothing to do with elections”.
    “GHB used to control housing prices in cities all over the state till 1998-99. The BJP announced no schemes and this helped builders and harmed consumers. Housing went out of reach of weaker sections and these voters will teach BJP a lesson in coming assembly elections,” said Ramesh Patel, former director of GHB and Congress leader.
    Sources said among new schemes, three will come up in Ahmedabad, two in Rajkot and one each in Surat and Vadodara.
GHB needs shelter
The once-bustling GHB office at Pragatinagar, Naranpura, is now lying in a worn out state with empty chairs longing for officials. Dust lies thick on files. The board has a land bank of 541.40 acres and is sitting on a fund of Rs 245 crore. The board has been paying Rs 70 lakh as salaries and Rs 95 lakh as pension every month. The GHB staff strength has plummeted from around 2,000 in 1990 to just 208 today and even the existing staff has virtually no work but to collect money from defaulters from some of the 1.75 lakh homes that it built during successive Congress regimes. The total arrears are of Rs 300 crore.