What happened to Bhopal’s housing scheme, ask NRIs

February 22nd, 2011 - 1:33 pm ICT by IANS  

By Shahnawaz Akhtar
Bhopal, Feb 22 (IANS) A two-decade-old housing scheme in Bhopal for non-resident Indians (NRIs) has got enmeshed in red tape, with the government even giving the allocated land to others, claims a group of Indian expatriates.Out of 180 NRIs who applied for the scheme - mostly in the Middle East and some in the US - eight to 10 people now live in Bhopal. Those who were part of the scheme have now demanded a high-level inquiry into the government’s alleged move to give the allocated land to others.

S.A. Ayub, a 75-year-old former NRI who is leading the fight over the issue, told IANS that the housing scheme launched in 1991 did not proceed beyond the early steps.

The scheme was launched in 1990-91 when the foreign exchange reserve and the balance of payment issues loomed over the country.

On the direction of then chief minister Sunderlal Patwa, the Bhopal Development Authority (BDA) and the Madhya Pradesh Housing Board (MPHB) offered the plan for an NRI housing scheme. It was registered as NRI Cooperative Housing Society Limited (NRI-CHS) in December 1991.

“It was not just a housing scheme but also a workplace of NRIs. We urged them to come with their specialties. It was one of the most impressive projects for NRIs in India,” said Ayub, who himself worked as a civil engineer in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.

A 208-acre land in the Bhaunri subdivision of Huzur was allotted for the scheme and 180 NRIs applied for it. The Bhopal collector gave advance possession of land to the BDA and MPHB.

The Central Building Research Institute (CBRI) called for an international bid in 2000 to select the plan and design of the scheme.

Ayub said: “The then chief secretary K.S. Sharma ordered the BDA to complete the work within three months. But then it was found that the land included some private property in its middle.

“It took another three years for the acquisition. Later the government planned to build a 56-acre Transport Nagar in the middle of the plot. However, it was not included in their master plan.”

He added that the scheme was not implemented for one reason or the other. “Thanks to the Right to Information (RTI) Act, now we know why it got delayed,” Ayub claimed.

But the problems are far from over.

“The government has decided to allot our land to the Indian School of Science and Management (ISSM) and the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). We went to the high court (Jabalpur) and brought stay orders in 2008 and in 2011.”

Ayub also said the group of 180 NRIs who were the beneficiaries of the housing scheme had brought foreign exchange worth more than Rs.2 crore when India faced its worst earthquake in Latur (Gujarat) in 1993 and after the second Pokhran nuclear test in 1998.

“The union government had allowed us to collect foreign exchange during the Latur earthquake and Pokhran 2,” said Ayub.

The issue was brought up during the 2010 Pravasi Bhartiya Divas in Delhi when Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had announced an NRI cell in the state.

According to Ayub, that also has not come up.

“There is no one we have not approached in the last 20 years. We met them all - officials, ministers and the chief minister. It is not just about some land. We can buy it anywhere. But the government has to do what it promised”, Ayub added.

Significantly, Babulal Gaur, the present urban development minister who was minister for housing and environment in 1991 when the scheme had got announced, seems to have forgotten all about the project.

“I have no idea about the scheme,” he told IANS.

(Shahnawaz Akhtar can be contacted at shahnawaz.a@ians.in)

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