Illegal occupants benefiting from govt's housing program

A parliamentary panel has found that the government approved the plan to construct houses under People´s Residence Program for people, who were occupying over 11,000 hectares of forest land in Kapilvastu district.

The 11-member sub-committee led by Raj Lal Yadav of the parliament´s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had conducted a field study to all the three districts -- Kapilvastu, Siraha and Saptari -- where the program has been launched.
The government had introduced the populist program through the budget for the fiscal year 2009/10.

The government had allocated Rs 300 million to build 1,000 houses in each district for 3,000 households, targeting Dom, Musahar, Chamar, Dushad, Khatwe and other Dalit and disadvantaged Muslims.

The report states that over 4,000 households have been occupying 11,000 hectares of forest area of Hatausa, Hatausa and Pattariya VDC of Kapilvastu district for the last 17 years.

“It is an improper act and violation of law,” the report submitted to PAC on Monday states.

The construction of houses, however, has stopped due to objection of the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC). The cabinet had endorsed the plan forwarded by the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works (MoPPW) without seeking consent of the MoFSC.

“The government decided to resettle people who were involved in constructing illegal settlements by encroaching upon forest area. It is a policy flaw on the part of the government,” the report added.

The report has revealed that most of beneficiaries of the program were illegal occupants of forest area.

"Of the total 43 houses that were under construction, 33 houses were being built in the illegally occupied area," the report stated.

The cost of building each house was estimated at Rs 139,000. As per the program, the beneficiaries had to chip in Rs 10,000 each for the construction.

The sub-committee also found there was no proper arrangement of drinking water, roads and toilets for the housing areas in all three districts. The committee also found that seven houses were built in Chanai VDC without following the approved design.

A total of 846 houses have been constructed in six VDCs of Siraha with the cost of Rs 73.4 million. The panel found that the some of the houses constructed in the district lack minimum standards envisaged by the program.

The committee has recommended the government to form a monitoring committee led by elected people´s representative of the concerned district to oversee the construction of the houses.

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