Bihar is seeing the return of migrant workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic as a golden opportunity to finish the construction of 40,000 Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Gramin (PMAY-G) homes.
PMAY-G is the rural development ministry’s flagship scheme, which helps homeless poor families and those living in kutcha houses with less than two rooms, to construct a pucca house in a minimum of 25 square metres area.
A senior RDD official engaged in the implementation of the housing scheme said all districts have a list of migrant workers who were allotted funds under PMAY-G in the last few years. “But these units have not been completed for various reasons including the long absence of the beneficiaries from the state.” He said the deputy development commissioners (DDCs) in the state have been instructed to get the work finished this time.
Last September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted that PMAY homes were built more efficiently during the first wave of COVID-19 with 18 lakh houses constructed across the country during the pandemic. He attributed this to the return of migrant workers to their homes. Construction finished in 45 to 60 days, compared to the previous average of 125 days.
Arvind Chaudhry, Bihar’s principal secretary of the rural development department, said a large number of unfinished units, especially those sanctioned to migrant workers, were at least 50% complete. He said the units could be finished in the coming months by migrant beneficiaries as they are now staying in the state.
However, it’s observed that the second wave of COVID-19 infections since April and the lockdown in the state has slowed down the construction of the low cost units in rural areas. Officials have pointed out that this has already impacted the target of completing over six lakh unfinished units under Mission Completion drive, which was launched in January this year.
“Construction material and workers are not easily available due to the COVID restrictions. We had set a target of completing six lakh pending units by May or June. But that looks unachievable and could be moved to the end of this year,” a rural development official said. “In Bihar, a total of 2.6 million PMAY homes were sanctioned, of which, around one million units were in different stages of completion. The Mission Completion drive targeted completion of 490,000 unfinished units in three months’ time, however, only 4.20 lakh units were completed by March 30.”
The RDD principal secretary hopes the pace of work would gain momentum once the restrictions are eased up after COVID cases decline.