Bhubaneswar, March 18: People living on either side of Mahatma Gandhi Road have come to dread rallies and sit-in demonstrations.
This road connecting Master Canteen Square and PMG Square close to the Assembly is the city’s rally and demonstration venue. And there are no signs of it moving from here.
People who live here often find heaps of garbage dumped in front of their houses. Examinees find it difficult to concentrate because of sloganeering. Lack of toilet facilities, especially for women protesters, turns the area into an open-air urinal.
The residents, who stay in Unit-II and Unit-III, complain that as soon as they wake up every day during the Assembly sessions they are assailed by the noise made by people shouting slogans.
“We are fed up. Rallies and demonstrations disrupt our lives and create a lot of problems for us,” said Vishmajeet Upadhyaya, 30, who stays near Hanuman temple in Unit-II.
Another resident, Tanuja Pattnaik, said the stink outside her house and the constant yelling by the agitators over the microphones disturbed them. “My son’s examinations are on, but he cannot concentrate on his studies. We are forced to close all our doors and windows to shut out the noise and dust coming from outside,” said Pattnaik. She said that when the agitations turned violent, they lived in fear.
The residents here have approached the authorities concerned several times to urge them to shift the venue of the protests, but there has been no response. “We approached the court in 2007 and pleaded for it to instruct the state government to stop giving permission for rallies and demonstrations on this road. We also sought the court’s intervention to shift the venue to another place,” said K. Ravi, a local resident.
The court had given a directive, but no action was taken as the district administration and other stakeholders could not agree on the new venue. “We thought the decision of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation to collect Rs 1,000 from each agitating group would help our cause, but it hasn’t seemed to at all,” said K. Jayalaxmi, a senior citizen. She said the noise pollution made her feel quite ill.
The authorities have also failed to make proper arrangements for the large number of people gathering on this road. The agitators, particularly women, said lack of public lavatories near the rally venue made their lives miserable as they often had to attend to nature’s call near the houses on that road.
“The authorities keep water tankers and an ambulance for agitators, but how can they forget about such a basic facility as toilets?” asked Renuka Dash, a schoolteacher from Nayagarh, who was attending the rally of the block grant schoolteachers today.
During the current budget session, more than 50 agitating groups have staged protests on this road and over 25,000 women have participated in these rallies and demonstrations.
Following the high court order, the home department had filed an affidavit stating that they had identified three alternative spots to shift the rally venue and would decide on one of these.
Deputy commissioner of police Nitinjeet Singh and commissioner of police Sunil Roy did not respond to questions from The Telegraph. However, senior police officers said they had identified three locations in the city, but these were managed by other government agencies and they were talking to them to find a solution. “Besides, we are trying to persuade the protesters to co-operate with us in moving the rally venue,” said a senior police officer.