Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently announced a national government initiative to make India slum-free. The Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) scheme seeks to ensure that slum dwellers and the urban poor “have access to basic services and decent shelter.” With approximately 93 million people estimated to be living in India’s urban slums in 2012, the Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (HUPA) aims to rapidly promote RAY in collaboration with communities, urban local bodies, and the private sector. RAY is planned to begin in 250 cities, which contain over 32 million slum dwellers.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said the government’s endeavour is to make the country slum-free through the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) scheme and empowering slum dwellers with house ownership.

“We have taken a major step for our poor brothers and sisters living in cities. We have approved the Rajiv Awas Yojana. We want to make India slum free through this scheme,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in his Independence Day address to the nation in New Delhi.

The RAY, the UPA-II’s flagship programme, envisages a slum free India where every slum dweller and urban poor will have access to basic civic and social services and decent shelter.

“We want the slum dwellers to get ownership of clean houses and have access to basic amenities like water and electricity. We will implement the Rajiv Awas Yojana as a national mission together with the states,” the Prime Minister said from the ramparts of the Red Fort.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the launch of Phase I of RAY in June to provide financial assistance to states willing to assign property rights to slum dwellers, for the provision of shelter and basic civic and social services for slum redevelopment and for the creation of affordable housing stock.

According to an estimate by the Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Ministry, about 93.06 million people will live in slums in the cities by next year.

Implemented by the Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (HUPA) Ministry, RAY aims to bring existing slums within the formal system and enable them to avail the same level of basic amenities as the rest of the town.

RAY is being executed in partnership with communities, urban local bodies, state governments and the Centre. While the Centre will bear 50 per cent of the costs of slum redevelopment, government is also encouraging the private sector participation in the scheme.

The states have a major role to play in implementing the RAY and states are being asked to frame legislation to accord property rights to slum-dwellers, and also formulate detailed project reports for the release of funds.

The scheme is expected to begin in 250 cities which have an estimated 32.10 million people living in slums. The choice of cities would be made by the states, according to their aspirations and financial and resource arrangements in consultation with the Centre.