Sunday, July 21, 2024

Vigilance Probe Initiated into Alleged Irregularities in Rajiv Awas Yojana Housing Project

The vigilance court in Muvattupuzha has ordered an investigation into reported anomalies surrounding the construction of an apartment complex in Thuruthy under the Rajiv Awas Yojana in Fort Kochi, aimed at rehabilitating slum dwellers. The probe was initiated following a petition filed by RTI activist K T Cheshire, alleging discrepancies and excessive spending by the corporation authorities on the project.

The 300 sqft units in the apartment complex are estimated to cost Rs 19.5 lakh under the Rajiv Awas Yojana, while under the Life Mission, the construction cost for a 500 sqft residential unit is approximately Rs 4 lakh. The court has directed the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) to conduct a preliminary investigation.

Cheshire raised concerns about the substantial expenditure on the project, which commenced in October 2014 with an initial 18-month deadline that has yet to be met. The activist criticized the irregularities in the scheme, highlighting the high project cost, while many homeless individuals await housing solutions.

Despite multiple deadline extensions, the corporation authorities have set a new completion deadline for February 2024. Funding for the project includes Rs 18 crore under the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) and Rs 21 crore from the Cochin Smart Mission Limited (CSML).

The apartment complex, spanning ground plus 11 floors, comprises 198 units with a built-up area of 300 sqft each. The initial project estimate was Rs 14 crore in 2016, escalating to Rs 18 crore in 2017. The corporation authorities further increased the budget to Rs 39 crore during 2019-20, drawing attention and criticism.

An audit report from 2019-20 highlighted serious anomalies in the project, accusing the corporation authorities of adopting a stance detrimental to the ‘houses for all’ concept. The report emphasized that, based on the Life Mission’s construction model allocating Rs 4 lakh per dwelling unit, around 975 units could have been constructed using the allocated Rs 39 crore.

Mayor M Anilkumar emphasized the corporation’s commitment to completing the project, describing it as a dream for several homeless individuals. While acknowledging the probe, Anilkumar expressed the municipality’s focus on expediting the construction work.

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