Bhubaneswar, Sept. 23: The murder of an elderly woman at her Acharya Vihar residence, which she had converted into a hostel, has raised questions about the mushrooming of private hostels in the city without any government regulations applying to them.
Four persons, including three students who had earlier come to stay there, were arrested on charges of killing Jyotsnadevi Panigrahi, 72, and injuring her husband Kunja Bihari Panigrahi and also robbing the couple on September 13.
“Both of Jyotsnadevi’s daughters have converted their houses into hostels,” said deputy commissioner of police (DCP) Nitinjeet Singh.
One of the accused, a BBA student, had earlier stayed in the private hostel run by the younger daughter and recently he was found staying in the hostel of the elder daughter along with the other two accused.
It was not the only case in the city. Many house owners here opt to rent out their houses to students or convert them into private hostels. There are no rules guiding them. Anyone can use his or her house for this kind of commercial purpose.
Most of these private hostels lack basic facilities such as water and electricity. Besides, as the cramped buildings, which are meant for one or two persons, house a large number of students, sewerage problems arise. It poses a security threat to the boarders as well as the house owners.
“In our area, the sewage lines get choked because they can’t carry the extra load that flows in from nearby private hostels. Besides, young boys and girls staying together raises security concerns as they indulge in all kinds of immoral activities,” said Jagdish Mahala, a resident of Kharavela Nagar, where many such hostels exist.
Around 100 students stayed in the hostel owned by the deceased — a three-storey apartment built on a plot of land that is approximately 3,000 square feet.
Except a corner room on the second floor of the building, all other rooms had been rented out to these students. Some rooms had even been built on the terrace to accommodate as many students as possible. All the rooms had been partitioned to turn them into small compartments for the students. The boarders had to pay between Rs 1,200 and Rs 1,500 for a single bed.
“Our rooms were very crowded. There wasn’t enough space to move around freely and there was no ventilation. We could not hear the couple’s shout when they were assaulted that night because there are no windows,” said Himanshu, a student who hails from western Odisha.
He added that the landlady was strict about collecting the rent.
Students staying at all these private hostels in the city face the same problem, with lack of water and electricity and overflowing sewer lines.
“Besides, there are no security arrangements, as the house owners do not want to spend money on security guards. Anyone can enter,” said Pravir Gupta, a student from Jharsuguda, who is preparing for competitive examinations.
Last year, a 20-year-old BCA student had been injured when two goons entered his room in a private hostel at Satya Nagar and assaulted him and two of his friends before decamping with his laptop, mobile phones and cash.
DCP Nitinjeet Singh said that as there was no regulation to curb rampant conversion of residential buildings into private hostels without proper arrangements, they could do nothing.
Such hostels are mushrooming all over the city. These private hostels can be found at Shaheed Nagar, Acharya Vihar, Kharavela Nagar, Rasulgarh, Mancheswar, Patia, Khandagiri and the outskirts of the city where educational institutions are setting up their campuses.
The Bhubaneswar Development Authorities (BDA) permits construction of buildings on the basis of purpose, whether commercial or residential. BDA officials said there was no need for any regulation, as students stayed in the hostels.
The Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation collects holding tax. The corporation officials admitted that they were losing a lot of taxes from such private hostels.
“What we need is a comprehensive survey to find out the exact number of such private hostels and their owners,” said an officer of the corporation.
SAFETY AT STAKE
September 19, 2012: Mancheswar police arrest two youths from a private hostel for stealing laptops from another
September 13, 2012: Four youths, including three
students, assault an elderly
couple. The woman dies and
her husband sustains severe
injuries. The couple used to run
a private hostel for students
at Acharya Vihar Square.
February 27, 2012: Five engineering students
residing in a private hostel in Ruchika Market area loot
passengers of a bus at
Baramunda bus stand. They
had planned the crime from
their hostel room and had
hidden the weapons there.
June 23, 2011: Saheed Nagar police arrest a youth on charges of stealing
laptops from private hostels
in Acharya Vihar area
May 2, 2011: Nayapalli police arrest two engineering students for stealing laptops from private
hostels taking advantage of the lack of security guards there.
Police seize 16 laptops from them