Union Budget 2017- Affordable housing: Even our bureaucracy can’t halt power of an idea whose time has arrived, says Jaitirth Rao

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New Delhi | Published: February 2, 2017 7:40:43 AM

Even our reactionary bureaucracy cannot halt the power of an idea whose time has arrived

homeSuddenly, homes are no longer the birthright of well-connected folks.

Let me start by admitting that I have a vested interest in affordable housing. I am one of those persons who prefer to build, finance and sell “affordable”—i.e., “not luxury” homes. So it should come as no surprise that I am a happy camper today. But I do believe that the readers of The Financial Express are entitled to meanderings beyond vested interests.

I am an old (ageing?) man almost as old as the republic. When I was a boy, we listened to All India Radio (there was no other station, under the great socialistic permit-license raj) telling us that Shri Krishnamachari had increased the price of cigarettes and had once again increased income taxes. In later years, one has followed so many finance ministers most of whom were immersed in details—increase in customer duties, excise duties and so many other imposts. The budget was almost always an elite exercise—the masses voted occasionally—but then who cared about that?

It is the change in the tone and the vocabulary that suddenly hits you today. Suddenly, homes are no longer the birthright of well-connected folks. It is now perfectly acceptable that poorer folks—or folks who I prefer to refer to as the “aspirational” upwardly mobile would-be middle classes can also “aspire” for homes. And guess what, unlike earlier pious pronouncements, today we have a leadership openly willing to say that the state will try its best to ensure that this happens—both on the demand side and the supply side. The state will make it easier for folks to borrow (and not postpone indefinitely) their purchase decision and the state will make it easier for those of us eccentric enough to want to build small dwellings rather than luxury bungalows. Our aspiring classes are no longer despised and irrelevant. They are citizens and they have a right to decent housing.

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I know that there are fears, many of them legitimate that our bureaucracy will try its best to sabotage the intentions of our political leadership when they (they: the bureaucracy) write the fine print of the “rules” that tyrannise the citizens of this fair land. My response is simple: even our reactionary bureaucracy cannot halt the power of an idea whose time has arrived and which our political leadership has enthusiastically embraced. Quite simple: in the next few months and years, more and more Indian citizens can aspire for a decent home and a quality roof above their heads. No mean achievement for what at the end of the day is yet another political speech.
Here is one “happy camper” saluting a good speech and one who is looking forward to “achhe ghar” for more and more readers of the FE.

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