Bolangir: The State Panchayati Raj department has placed Hemakanti Munda, the lady Sarpanch of Salveta panchayat in Bolangir, under suspension based on a report submitted by the district administration with regard to bulldozing houses being constructed under PMAY-G.
Last month, OTV had telecast a report on the incident highlighting how Munda, her husband and few others razed several under-construction houses being built under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Gramin (PMAYG).
Surprisingly, when the Sarpanch was asked about this, she said she demolished the houses by exercising the Collector powers she has been empowered with by the Odisha government - reportedly for Covid exigencies. “I along with my husband and some members of the village committee, demolished the houses as I have been granted with the power of a Collector,” Hemakanti had said.
The district administration swung into action after the news was aired on OTV. The families who were rendered homeless also lodged a complaint at Loisingha Police station, following which the bulldozers used were seized and an investigation was initiated in the matter.
Later, the Sarpanch was arrested by Loisingha Police for abuse of official power. Her husband Mohan Munda has also been arrested in this connection while other accused are reportedly absconding.
According to sources, five tribal families were sanctioned houses under PMAY-G. As they did not have their own land, the construction of houses was started on vacant government land at Salveta village after it was allotted to them by the local panchayat and block administration. However, the eviction drive carried out by the Sarpanch rendered the tribal families homeless.
One of these affected-beneficiaries had said that they had received two instalments of PMAY and only after Tehsildar and RI allotted the vacant land, they started construction work. "Though the money wasn’t enough, we somehow managed to start construction by availing loans from money lenders. Now the houses have been razed, how will we survive?" she said.