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Votes matter most, not slum bill

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 2: All political parties have their focus on the 417 slums in the city in the run-up to the January 8 municipal corporation polls.

However, the government’s inability to pass the Odisha Property Rights to Slum Dwellers and Prevention of New Slums Bill, 2012, during the Assembly’s last winter session has raised questions about the government’s seriousness in giving them their rights.

“We have given our blood and toil for the growth of the city. But, I don’t know when I will able to get a pucca house of my own,” said Nathu Murmu, 67, a slum dweller of Salia Sahi. He has been residing in the city for the past 35 years.

Senior Congress leader Narasingh Mishra said: “Naveen Patnaik is like an empty vessel that sounds much. He does not believe what he promises. This is another example of a promise to enact rosy legislation for the slum dwellers. But, he is adopting a tactic, so that the law will never see the light of the day.”

The bill for slum dwellers is lying in cold storage. During the last Assembly session in December last, the government failed to initiate any move. The bill has been referred to a select committee. Assembly secretariat sources said the select committee meeting had not held a single meeting so far. “The new government, which will come after the general polls, will decide on it,” said a senior BJD leader.

Nearly three lakh slum dwellers in 417 sums of the city will play a crucial role in the election. The bill aims to provide redevelopment, rehabilitation and prevention of slums. Besides, it aims to provide residential houses with infrastructure facilities, assigning property rights to the identified slum dwellers.

Parliamentary affairs minister Kalpataru Das said: “The government is committed to provide property rights to slum dwellers. We are in the second state after Jammu and Kashmir, which is working on the direction. The committee has not met as they must have been pre-occupied with various other works.”

Bhubaneswar (central) MLA Bijay Mohanty aka Badal said: “Survey is going on to identify the beneficiaries. After the survey, steps would be taken for relocation of a few slums to rehabilitate them. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik had recently called a meeting to take a review on this point.”

Taking the same stand on this issue, Bhubaneswar (Ekamra) MLA Ashok Panda said: “We will ensure that the slum dwellers get the property right. If the government had not been serious, it would not have brought the bill in the Assembly.”

The bill got the nod of the state cabinet on September 2012. Later, it was sent to the Assembly.

Bhubaneswar (north) MLA Bhagirathi Badajena said: “After it has been referred to the select committee, it will certainly look into various aspects before giving their nod to it. It will take time. However, the slum dwellers can get all basic needs from the BJD government and not from the Congress.”

Interestingly, foundation stone for highrise buildings was laid at Pathar Bandha and Mahishakala slums where the land was given by the then chief minister, Biju Patnaik.

“Though we have already started vigorous campaigning in the slums, we will meet all of them living in the slums in the last two days of the election campaigning,” said a BJD leader. The Opposition Congress has also expressed similar views.

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