With the Berhampur Municipal Corporation (BeMC) heading for the civic elections on March 24, rehabilitation of slum dwellers has emerged a major poll issue in the city.
There are 150 small as well as big slums in Berhampur, one of the oldest cities in the State. Though several housing and other welfare schemes have been implemented, the problems of the slum residents are still far from being over.
As candidates of different political parties hit the campaign trials and started making rounds of slums, the residents of Gaudasahi Basti in Lanjipalli in the city, who are leading a miserable life in the absence of permanent houses have made their demands clear and loud. The slum dwellers are expected to play a crucial role in the election of mayor and other posts in the civic body.
“For the past four months I have been cooking in the open after our house was razed by the administration. When it rains, we have to take shelter elsewhere. We have been staying here for decades and want patta for this land,” said a woman resident of the slum.
“When the administration undertook the eviction drive, we sought more time to vacate the slum. The apartment allotted at Nehru Nagar is not suitable for us. We have large family, but the room allotted to us in the apartment is very small,” said a youth at the slum.
“Earlier, people were ignorant and political leaders used to fool them with various false promises. But now people are politically active. We have decided to vote only if we are given land deeds. We have intimated our demands to the politicians through our local leaders,” said the youth.
“We are now reeling under manifold difficulties. There is no electricity, safe drinking water and other basis facilities are a far cry. During elections, the leaders only assure to address all our needs and forget thereafter,” said an elderly woman.
“We will not vacate the slum. Those who will provide us land and patta for the slum, we will cast our vote in their favour,” she added.
When asked, BJP’s Mayoral candidate for the Berhampur Municipal Corporation, Dr Sabita Suar, said, “The slum dwellers have not been given patta yet. If voted to power, my first priority will be to provide them with patta and ensure that they get loan and construct their house.”
Congress candidate Manju Rath said, “The government should have given patta to all slum dwellers under Jaga Mission. It is a long standing demand of the slum dwellers. When I visit a slum, the residents raise the same demand. I will try to address the issue if voted to power.”
BJD’s mayoral candidate Sanghamitra Dalei said, “The State government has rolled out many schemes to make the State slum-free.
Financial assistance is provided to people under housing schemes and they are rehabilitated to multi-storeyed buildings. Under Jaga Mission, patta is being given to people. If I win, I will try to expedite the process.”