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State may scrap Housing dept, merge it with urban

Department, which consists of crucial bodies like MHADA and SRA, may fuse with urban development, to avoid duplication of work and speed up schemes

In a bid to simplify housing operations, lend them speed and efficacy, and reduce paperwork and delays, the Congress-led state government is all set to do away with the housing department, and integrate its operations with the Urban Development Department (UDD). "The move will facilitate implementation of some crucial housing schemes in the near future," an informed source said.


Integrated approach: The project, announced by the prime minister
around two years back and aimed at slum-free cities, is likely to pay
rich dividends to the ruling party as it offers dwellings at significantly
cheaper rates. FILE PIC


The proposal, according to a senior government functionary, has been vetted by the housing department, headed by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, and will soon come up before the state cabinet for a final nod. Currently, it is with the UDD -- also headed by Chavan -- which is working over additional responsibilities it may have to shoulder.

"The merger bid comes after a series of meetings within the housing department," the source said, "where it was contended that the housing department has a limited role to play in implementing big schemes like the Rajiv Awas Yojna (RAY). The Centre-funded scheme is supposed to be executed by civic bodies across the state, which are controlled by UDD." 

The RAY, announced by the prime minister around two years back and aimed at slum-free cities, is going to be an ambitious project. It is also likely to pay rich dividends to the ruling party as it offers dwellings at significantly cheaper rates.

In Mumbai, the scheme would offer houses to 12 lakh slum dwellers, irrespective of how old their slums are. As such, the scheme is dear to the government, which wants to ensure that it is executed efficaciously, he added. 

Why merge?
The housing department was carved out from the UDD, PWD and Revenue department. While UDD handled the issue of FSI, Development Control Regulation, construction permissions etc, PWD was in charge of the Repair and Reconstruction Board, and Revenue dealt with encroachment issues. 

Even with housing department as a separate entity, revenue officials are still on deputation to handle the subject of encroachments and MHADA engineers come from the PWD. Also, both the Repair and Reconstruction Board and the Mumbai Housing Board do not have full time chief officers and the charge has been given to junior officers.

In the light of these facts, it was reasoned that instead of borrowing officials from other divisions, housing can be merged into them, doing away with duplication of work and responsibilities. It would also avoid delays, as files that had to be circulated between various units can now be studied by one.

MHADA, SRA merge
With the integration, the crucial Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA), and the Shiv Shahi Punarvasan Prakalp Ltd (SSPPL) would all fall under the command of the UDD.

The operations of rural housing would be subsumed under the Rural Development Department (RDD). "As it is, rural housing schemes are being implemented by local bodies such as zilla parishads and panchayat samitis, controlled by the RDD," said a senior official.

Political fallout
In the process of the merger, the Chief Minister will have to sort out the political issue with his alliance partner, the NCP, as the Minister of State for Housing, Sachin Ahir, will lose the portfolio, and his party colleague, Bhaskar Jadhav, MoS, UDD will benefit, with crucial subjects of housing under his supervision.

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