Bhubaneswar, Nov. 16: The Bhubaneswar Development Authority today removed squatters from a plot of land where it has proposed to set up a market complex.
The move, an effort to expedite peripheral development and beautification around the historical Khandagiri-Udayagiri hills, faced stiff opposition from some slum-residents, who tried to stall the drive by burning tyres and lying down in front of the excavator vehicle.
The protests halted the eviction drive for around six hours. Ten people, including seven women, were arrested. Soon after, the authorities constructed a boundary wall around the plot to prevent further encroachment.
“We have arrested these people for preventing government servants from carrying out their work,” said inspector in-charge of Khandagiri police station Sanjeev Satpathy.
Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) officials said they had procured the 2.81-acre plot from the general administration department, but some slum dwellers settled there.
“Six months ago, when we planned to construct a boundary wall around the plot, the slum dwellers opposed our move. They demanded a road through which they could reach National Highway-5. Though we left some space for their road, they began encroaching on the land again,” said BDA enforcement officer S. Dhanwar.
A joint team of officials from the BDA, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, the general administration department and Cuttack-Bhubaneswar police were present during the eviction drive.
Dhanwar said two asbestos-roof houses had encroached upon the BDA plot. The local residents had also constructed a raised platform on the encroached land. After the team removed the platform this morning, the people began protesting against the drive.
“We recently filed a case in the high court following the Odisha Development Authority Act. After we got an order from the court, we came here to evict the squatters,” said the enforcement officer.
The BDA officials said the project report of the market complex had not been finalised. But they expected some shops from the foothills of Khandagiri and Udayagiri to be shifted here once this market complex was constructed.
The evictees complained that the authorities were evicting them without taking any steps for their rehabilitation.
“We have been staying here for 20 years. So far the government hasn’t done anything for us. Today, the BDA officials arrived in huge numbers to evict us. But what measures have they taken for our rehabilitation? I am a visually-challenged girl. Where do I go from here?” asked Jhumuri Biswal, who parents were arrested for stalling the eviction drive.
The corporation also has decided to relocate 27 shops along the road passing through the hills. The authorities have also decided to close the road near the caves to save the ancient rock structures from the vibrations of heavy vehicles.
The city management group had urged the general administration and tourism departments to take up the matter at the earliest.
The BDA has taken up an initiative to file cases against illegal constructions within a 100-metre radius of the Khandagiri caves. The eviction will be carried out by the BDA, the corporation and the general administration department.