40 mln low-cost houses, 500 health centres needed for urban poor

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New Delhi, Jan 3 (UNI) With a significant part of urban India spending Rs 30-40 lakhs per dwelling unit, there still remains a populace of about 190 million urban poor who are unable to obtain basic health and housing facilities, a study suggests.

According to a study by industry body Assocham, over 40 million low-cost dwelling units and an additional 500 urban health and family welfare centres are needed to meet these basic needs for the urban poor.

Calling on the real estate and pharmaceutical majors, the Assocham President Venugopal N Dhoot today said these giants can play a pivotal role in providing access to housing and healthcare facilities to urban poor.

''Companies like DLF, Parsvnath, Omaxe, Sun City etc can offer 1-2 rooms for these minor lot with easy monthly instalments of Rs 1000-1500 for a unit,'' said Mr Dhoot.

Similarly, pharma companies like Nicholas Piramal, Pfizer, Sandoz, Elder Pharmaceuticals, Shalaks Pharma, etc can supply medicines and other essential items at concessional rates in these urban healthcare centres, he added.

The study, titled 'Housing and Health Facility for Urban Poor', estimates that a meagre investment of Rs 700 crore calls for providing low-cost housing to urban poor for which budgetary allocations for fiscal 2008-09 could be made out of with stronger political will.

''States like Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab should come out with such schemes as these receive migrant workers from all parts of the country, who gradually settle in the states in which they have taken to immigration,'' Mr Dhoot said.

A minimum of Rs 500 crore are required to create the additional urban health and family welfare centers, for which the allocations should come forward from central budget for fiscal 2008-09, he added.

Currently, 40-45 per cent urban poor are living in slums or squatter settlements. The balance population lives under bridges and flyovers, pavements, overcrowded tenements etc, the study points out.

Urban India has about 1,150 Family Welfare Centres, which take care of 2,50,000 urban patients against the norms of serving to 70,000 patients only, the chamber's Chief said.

The urban population would exceed 225 million urban poor by 2015 from the current 190 million. The states in which the urban poor population would grow manifold include Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu as these states have been recording growth in urban poor with a percentage of over 30, Assocham said.

The study reveals that most of states have yet to start initiatives for providing dwelling units to urban poor as 25 per cent of them live in downside of bridges.

Over 39 per cent of the urban poor purchase water from small private players.

Over 80,000 babies die in the first month of life, with half of the country's urban poor children being underweight, the study said adding that one out of every 10 children born during the year is not destined to see their fifth birthday, while out of 10, three children are affected with diarrhoea, malaria and other diseases.

Due to urban migration and massive inflow of population to the towns and cities, the health status of urban poor and slum dwellers is dismal.

Urban slums are not getting their adequate share of these centres facilities because it is inaccessible to urban poor due to long distance, acute shortage of health infrastructure and private sector's high cost healthcare services are unaffordable for the urban poor, the study says.

The urban hospitals and dispensaries established years ago need renovation and should be re-equipped with adequate manpower, essential drugs and supplies and providing mobility, the study recommended.

UNI SLD SR KN1726

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