| Slum dwellers evicted on July 4 from the Jay Maa Mangala Basti on the eastern fringe of S.C.B. Medical College Hospital in Cuttack live under temporary polythene sheds. Picture by Badrika Nath Das |
Cuttack, Sept. 15: Orissa High Court today ordered the state government and urban local bodies to construct residential apartments for the rehabilitation of slum dwellers. The order paved the way for addressing the issue of resettlement before evicting slum dwellers across the state.
The high court issued the direction on a PIL on eviction of slum dwellers from the Jay Maa Mangala Basti on the eastern fringe of S.C.B. Medical College Hospital campus on July 4.
Social activist Ritupurna Mohanty submitted a petition to Chief Justice V Gopalgowda on behalf of evicted slum dwellers.
Treating the petition as a PIL, the court heard the matter and appointed a counsel for the slum dwellers. “Allowing the plea of the evicted slum dwellers, Chief Justice V Gopalgowda and Justice Indrajeet Mohanty today directed the state government and the urban local bodies to draw up a comprehensive development plan and identify government and private land. The direction says that if necessary authorities should acquire land for the purpose of the construction of residential apartments to rehabilitate slum dwellers and evictees in the state,” Karunakar Jena, counsel for the slum dwellers, told The Telegraph.
“While deciding to monitor implementation of the order, the high court further directed the state government to submit a periodical status report by every 12th week through the secretary of the urban and housing development,” Jena said.
As part of the monitoring process, the court also directed the state government to submit a periodical status report on steps taken to avail of the benefit of the schemes under which the central government allocates funds for slum development.
“If the reports are found unsatisfactory the matter would be viewed seriously and action would be taken against the erring officials,” the high court warned, indicating about funds allocated under the integrated housing and slum development programmes of the Union government. The high court expected the state government to discharge statutory obligation to see that the schemes are implemented effectively by timely sending the utilisation report to avail of the benefit of budget allocation already made and yet to be made for 2011-12.
“The high court ruling brings a new hope for not only the evicted slum dwellers of Jay Maa Mangala Basti in Cuttack but also around 20 lakh slum dwellers across the state,” Basti Unnayana Mahasangh president Subash Singh told The Telegraph.
Singh had filed a writ petition seeking direction to the state government to prepare a rehabilitation plan for the people residing at 257 slums across the city.
The petition was taken up for analogous hearing along with the PIL on slum dwellers who had been rendered homeless following the eviction drive at the Jay Maa Mangala Basti on July 4.
Earlier, the high court had directed the district administration to provide the evicted families with temporary shelter at Hadia Patha on the banks of the Mahanadi. The authorities had since provided bamboos and polythene to them to set up their own temporary shelter. Food was also being provided as part of the relief measure in pursuance of the court order.