$ 270 m Indian housing project in NE gains momentum

Saturday, 9 March 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The second phase of the Indian Housing Project for construction of 43,000 housing units in Northern and Eastern Province, which is being jointly implemented by the Governments of India and Sri Lanka, has made rapid progress since its launch on 2 October 2012.

Over 8,700 beneficiaries have already been selected in all five Districts of Northern Province through rigorous application of selection processes agreed upon by the two Governments. The High Commission of India has released the first instalment payment to these beneficiaries.

Further, nearly 25% of these beneficiaries have received their second instalment payment indicating progress in construction of the house beyond the foundation stage. The two Governments are confident of achieving the target of completing 10,000 houses in the Northern Province before the end of this year.

During his recent visit to the Northern Province on 23-24 February, the Indian High Commissioner Ashok K. Kantha reviewed progress of this phase of the Project. He visited some of the houses completed under the Project in Kilinochchi District and expressed satisfaction on progress of the work.

During his visit and on his return to Colombo, the High Commissioner also had extensive discussions with various stakeholders, including community organisations and civil society groups. On 2 March, the High Commissioner reviewed progress of the project with the implementing agencies.

Among other things, the recent concerns expressed by some groups in Vavuniya and Mannar Districts of the Northern Province over alleged discrimination in selection of beneficiaries were also looked into during these discussions.

It may be noted that beneficiary selection activities under the Indian Housing Project are being carried out jointly by the Implementing Agencies appointed by the Government of India and local officials of the Government of Sri Lanka.

Realising its critical importance, the two Governments are committed, since the inception of the project, to ensure that benefits under the project reach intended beneficiaries. Therefore, a robust process of beneficiary selection, which is fair, objective, transparent and norm based, was agreed upon and put in place.

This process was finalised after extensive consultations with all stakeholders, including political parties, civil society organisations and affected individuals.

Under the selection process, as a first step, worst-affected villages in all five districts of Northern Province are identified.

Then, all persons in these villages, who do not own any another house in Sri Lanka, have not been beneficiaries directly or indirectly under any other permanent housing assistance program, have lived in that village or are descendents of families who have lived in that village as well as have now permanently returned to resettle in those villages and are in need of a permanent house, are placed on an initial list of beneficiaries.

Necessary information is then collected through application forms distributed to them. Based on the information provided, prospective beneficiaries are scored on a weighted scoring model.

This model takes into account their state of livelihood, number of dependents in their family, age of dependents, extent of disabilities in the family and other similar vulnerabilities.

The beneficiaries thus scored are ranked and only those, who score above a certain cut-off mark, are placed on the final list of beneficiaries. The process of scoring is fully transparent and participative.

The proposed lists of beneficiaries, together with the scoring sheets, are prominently displayed in public places. A period of 15 days is provided for persons of the area to register their complaints, if any, on the selection or non-selection of a beneficiary.

The proposed list of beneficiaries is also notified to all elected representatives of the area. Complaints received are addressed in a public enquiry conducted by the Divisional Secretary along with the implementing agencies. Only those beneficiaries against whom there are no valid complaints are placed on the final list.

It may be mentioned that besides the formal process of grievance redressal, complaints/representations from individuals and civil society organisations are routinely addressed to the High Commission of India, Colombo and the Consulate General of India, Jaffna.

Such communications are also looked into and are suitably redressed. The implementing agencies on the ground and local officials play a principal role in the selection process. The selection process envisages active participation of civil society organisations and local communities, particularly through the grievance redressal mechanism.

Following the recent discussions the High Commissioner had with various stakeholders, this aspect is being further strengthened through closer consultation with community advisory groups.

The final list of beneficiaries approved for housing assistance under the project, therefore, passes through a stringent and rigorous process of identification, verification and selection followed by a participative process of grievance redressal.

The housing project has been conceived with the objective to support the housing needs of persons displaced as a result of the armed conflict, contribute to their livelihoods as well as promote return of normalcy in the Northern Province.

The project is being implemented under the owner-driven model through four implementing agencies, UN-habitat, international federation of Red Cross (in partnership with the Sri Lanka Red Cross), the National Housing Development Agency and Habitat for Humanity.

These agencies have wide experience in handling similar projects in Sri Lanka. Beneficiaries selected under the project undertake construction/repair of their houses with necessary technical assistance and support being provided by these implementing agencies

The Indian housing project for construction of 50,000 houses was announced by Government of India during the visit of the President of Sri Lanka to India in June 2010. The project is supported by full grant assistance of US$ 270 million of the Government of India.

A pilot project involving construction of 1,000 houses in Northern Province was completed in July 2012 and the houses have been transferred to the beneficiaries. The second phase of the project involving construction of 43,000 houses for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Northern and Eastern Provinces is presently underway.

Each beneficiary, in the second phase, receives Rs. 550,000 in four stages for new construction and upto Rs. 250,000 in three stages for repairs. Funds are transferred directly into the savings bank account of the beneficiaries by the High Commission of India.  

The third phase of the housing project involving construction of 4,000 houses for the people of the Central Province under agency-driven model will be taken up in the coming months.  

The fourth phase, which would involve construction of 2,000 houses under agency driven model, will be taken up in the Northern and Eastern Provinces for the most vulnerable IDPs.