India approves low-cost housing for slum-dwellers

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A slum near Delhi
Image caption,
Authorities say they want a slum-free India

The Indian government has approved an ambitious scheme to provide affordable housing to millions of slum dwellers.

The plan is expected to benefit 32 million people in 250 cities and aims to give property rights to the owners of the houses built under the scheme.

A cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has approved the first phase of the scheme, Home Minister P Chidambaram said.

The scheme aims to check proliferation of slums, he said.

The scheme is named Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) after former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Under the scheme, the federal government will provide financial assistance to states willing to assign property rights to slum dwellers.

The money would be used to build low-cost houses and improve the basic civic services in the slums.

The government has also announced setting up a $222m (£137m) fund to facilitate lending to urban poor for housing purposes.

Critics, however, say the scheme is unlikely to benefit the hundreds of millions of people who live on less than 20 rupees (50 US cents) a day.