Thursday, July 9, 2009


PSUs and government housing complex holds a solution...

Whenever I visit Bhopal, I make it a point to visit my neighbourhood in BHEL, where I spent most of my childhood. It is this overwhelming feeling of sinking in the past that draws me to those colony quarters (a term that is used for government housing), where I grew up. It has been exactly 20 years now that I have left Bhopal and in these years, the very same colonies have gone through a sea change. With most of the quarters being unoccupied for years now, they bear a painful deserted look. Today, it is impossible to imagine that a complete generation have grown and thrived in these colonies!! What is more painful is the fact that for a nation wherein basic housing is monstrous predicament for millions, thousands of such quarters lie unoccupied! Going by figures revealed by Ministry for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, in February this year, the total shortage of urban housing is pegged at a jaw dropping 24.71 million!!

This is not just the case with BHEL, Bhopal. Most of the other central government employees are allotted residence space under Central Government Employees Welfare Housing Organisation (CGEWHO), which is spread across all major cities/towns of India. Similarly, even other Public Sector Units (PSUs) like NTPC, NHPC, IOCL, BPCL, HPCL, to name a few, have developed company apartments and colonies for their employees. Few PSUs have even developed state-of-art townships for employees working in Tier II and Tier III cities, which is even at par with any commercial developers' residential complex. Not just housing, most of the PSUs have gone to the extent of providing health, school and recreational infrastructure as well. And with literally no fresh hiring for the past few years and with people retiring, this mammoth infrastructure is increasingly becoming vacant. Moreover, in the last few years there has been another new trend. Salary hike (thanks to the sixth pay commission), clubbed with easy access to credit and an aspiration to own their own homes has lured many employees towards owning their personal homes. Many employees (who have been allotted residence from company and government’s end) have actually been shifting to their own homes, thus leaving the allotted flats unused.

With real estate pricing rising up at never-before rate and housing problem reaching a new height, it does not make any sense to keep these quarters and townships vacant. It would have been economically so viable if these would have been opened even for common population (at subsidised rate) or converted into housing complexes and co-operative housing facilities. This will not only divert the rent paid by many thousands (which anyways accumulate as black money) to PSUs/government’s account, but most importantly, would solve the housing problem to some extent.

All in all, the fact is that the poor (and all those who want to upgrade, but can’t due to steep rentals in most of the urban cities) will have a better urbane housing at a relatively affordable rates and at no additional cost (as the residential areas are already built and developed) to anyone. This increased supply of housing will also help in reducing rents to a large extent and will let families living in inferior accommodation and clumsy colonies, upgrade into the state-of-art residence (at an affordable price) that are lying unoccupied. Now that’s what we call a 'home grown' solution!!!


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