Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections due next year, the UPA government has finalised a draft Bill for providing homes to the homeless in rural areas.
The draft of the National Right to Homestead Bill, 2013, prepared by the Rural Development ministry, is almost ready for inter-ministerial consultation, official sources said today
According to the eleventh plan document, an estimated 13 to 18 million families in rural India are landless, of which about 8 million don't have homes.
The welfare measure seeks to ensure every shelterless poor family in rural areas has a right to a home and a piece of land of not less than area of 10 cents(one cent=435 sq ft).
It comes against the backdrop of the government's efforts to push through another ambitious entitlement-based legislation - the National Food Security Bill, 2011, which continues to hang fire and is yet to get Parliament's nod.
The Bill said the right to home should be enforced within a time period as specified and in accordance with the plans to be made at the state-level and the district levels for the purpose.
It is the outcome of a 10-point agreement signed in Agra in October last year between the Centre and Gandhian activist P V Rajagopal of Ekta Parishad who had led an agitation of the landless poor.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, who had signed the agreement on behalf of the Centre, had promised to initiate land reforms.
Following the government's promises to initiate land reform and the possibility of statutory backing for the right to shelter, homestead and agricultural land, thousands of landless poor had ended their march to Delhi.
According to the government, the poorest and most vulnerable among the rural families are those who are landless and shelterless and millions of rural household have no house of their own.
Through its various judgements, the Supreme Court has also said that the issue of a roof over one's head needs to be seen as a basic human right, and a fundamental right that guarantees dignity to an individual.
The government hopes that a homestead of 10 cents area provided to a poor shelterless family shall help in enabling the family build a shelter and take up supplementary livelihood activities such as backyard poultry, goat-rearing, horticulture and vegetable cultivation.
It also feels that a law to guarantee minimum space to build the house and carryout supplementary livelihood activities is imperative and such a law also is in pursuance of the constitutional mandate to endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status.