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Great walls of isolation

Bhubaneswar, July 16: Residents of two staff colonies have been caught in the middle in an inter-agency face-off over building boundary walls by blocking public thoroughfares.

With the roads blocked, the colonies are in imminent danger of losing their “public character” and along with it civic amenities provided by the municipal corporation.

Public roads have been blocked in Krushi Vihar near the Odisha University of Agriculture and Training after the agriculture department erected a boundary wall.

In Bhoi Nagar, the energy department has started building walls around the Gridco Colony. This wall will block several roads in the area.

There are around 250 quarters at Krushi Vihar Colony and nearly 500 quarters at Gridco Colony in Bhoi Nagar.

Municipal commissioner Sanjib Kumar Mishra said that no one could block a public road that have been in use for several years and perhaps, even decades.

“One has to either notify the civic authorities or the general administration department before taking such a step.”

Mishra has already written a letter to the chairman and managing director of Gridco and is likely to write a similar letter to the agriculture varsity’s vice-chancellor regarding the closure of the roads by building boundary walls.

Local councillor of Bhoi Nagar Sanjuktamayee Jena had written a letter to the mayor intimating him about the energy department’s move. After that, the construction of the boundary wall around the Gridco Colony was partially stopped. Sources, however, said the Gridco authorities would close all entry and exit roads of the colony and have a single road from the Saptasati temple end.

Section 1(66) of the Odisha Municipal Corporation Act, 2003, says erection of boundary walls around colonies would make them lose their “public” character.

Once the boundary walls are erected, the corporation cannot render civic services in those areas, as they would become “private enclosures”.

“The corporation will not be able to provide civic amenities to these colonies as they will no longer remain under the direction, management and control of the corporation as provided under Section 266 of the Odisha Municipal Corporation Act,” said the commissioner’s letter to the Gridco boss.

Contacted, registrar of the agriculture varsity R.K. Das said that by building the wall, they had not reduced the colony to a private enclosure.

“We have closed some roads, but haven’t cut off the colony from nearby roads as the civic authorities claim. People from outside can still come to the community centre managed by the varsity and the Jagannath temple,” Das said.

He said the closure of “some roads” was necessitated by rising cases of snatching and robbery in Krushi Vihar.

“Within six months, we have seen two bike thefts, numerous chain snatching and frequent cases LPG cylinder thefts,” said Das.

Corporation officials, however, said that as the land belongs to the general administration department, the varsity authorities should have contacted the department and the civic authorities before closing the public roads.

Gridco officials, on the other hand, could not give any reason why they were building the boundary walls around the colony in Bhoi Nagar.

To reach a school, post office and bank, people will have to go up to Bidyut Marg (opposite Regional Science Centre) to reach the main road.

Gridco land officer Nihar Ranjan Mohanty said: “I am new to this post. The civil wing of the power utility is erecting the wall. I cannot say anything about this.”

Another senior Gridco official, on condition of anonymity, however, said: “Even if the corporation suspends its services, we have our own mechanism to manage things inside our colony.”

Ironically, Gridco boss Suresh Chandra Mohapatra had written to the municipal commissioner on May 11, 2004, requesting provision of civic amenities inside the colony.

This year alone, the civic body had invested around Rs 25 lakh to develop roads and drains inside Gridco Colony.