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With an estimated 95 million people expected to be living in shanties by next year, the government has drawn up an ‘ambitious’, but ‘achievable’ scheme to transform the urban landscape of the country by providing affordable houses and better amenities for the urban poor.

‘Rajiv Awas Yojana, which is called RAY, has the potential to radically transform the urban landscape of India and the living conditions of the urban poor,’ said Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Selja here Saturday while inaugurating the state minister’s conference on RAY.

In a bid to make the country free of slums, the central government June 2 approved RAY, which envisages building affordable housing and basic facilities for the urban poor. RAY is part of the government’s ambitious Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

RAY will cover 250 cities with a population of more than 100,000 by the end of the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17). The scheme aims to help re-develop slums, stop their proliferation and provide a dignified life and property rights to the dwellers.

The government will bear 50 percent of the cost of the slum projects and Rs.1,000 crore will be provided as capital for mortgage guarantee facilities under the scheme.

Selja said the scheme ‘envisions an inclusive and equitable urban India where every citizen has access to the basic civic and social services and decent shelter’.She said the scheme was drawn up in response to the need that India’s urban population is going to double — from 286 million in 2001 to 573 million by 2030.

The 2011 Census figures place India’s urban population at 377 million, representing 31.16 percent of the total population, she added.

Selja said it is estimated that although the percentage of the urban poor had declined from around 49 percent in 1993-1994 to 25.7 percent in 2004-05, yet the urban poor have grown in absolute numbers from 76.3 million to 80.7 million in this period.

‘The majority of these urban poor live in slums and squatter settlements in conditions of squalor and deprivation. Slums are growing with the cities’ growth. The slum population in India is projected to be 95 million by next year, and 104 million by the year 2017,’ she said.

‘We must recognise that people who are counted as urban poor today play a significant role in the functioning, productivity and competitiveness of cities. At present, the wealth and prosperity generated in urban centres is hardly ever shared with these people. This trend has to be changed,’ she stressed.

‘RAY is nothing short of a mission for urban reconstruction. It is ambitious, but achievable,’ she added.

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