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New trick: squat & demand home

Slums have grown up encroaching upon government land on both sides of VSS Nagar-Sainik School Road. Pictures by Ashwinee Pati

Bhubaneswar, March 12: Need a home from the government under Rajeev Awas Yojana for free? Put up a tent on a roadside and just say that you won’t move away until the government rehabilitates you.

That seems to be the trick for those who have recently encroached upon land surrounding a transit dump yard behind the Sainik School campus here.

Some slum-dwellers, who have been encroaching upon the land on both sides of the road for the last few months, today told The Telegraph that they won’t move elsewhere until the government rehabilitated them.

“We have been staying in the area for quite some time now. Naveen babu’s government is now announcing house for slum-dwellers. We can leave this place only if the government gives us such a house,” said Trinath Singh, who has been occupying land around the transit dump yard.

On February 28, The Telegraph had also highlighted on the unplanned roadside dumping of garbage by the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation in the area, following which the public works department decided to construct a boundary wall here to prevent dumping of waste on the newly-constructed 50-ft road.

However, as soon as the practice of dumping waste at the site was stopped, local people started grabbing the land on the roadside.

“This is a very disturbing trend. The civic authorities should keep a vigil on the situation. Once the encroachers start building their house on the land, removing them will become a tough task. If the encroachers are not prevented from occupying the land now, it would be almost impossible to evict them later,’’ said Bijay Mishra, a local resident.

“Those who have already built their house cannot be evicted now,” said a senior official of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation.

Lack of availability of police force in the eviction drives of the civic body has also become a major concern lately.

On February 25, about 1,000 persons came after officials of an enforcement squad of the Bhubaneswar Development Authority as the latter went to remove encroachment from a 20-acre government land near Kanyashram in Chandrasekharpur.

Former councillor of Gadakana Madan Majhi said: “The grassroots-level revenue officials should report these developments (encroachment) immediately to the enforcement officials. But, it seems that there is no system working to check unauthorised occupation of land in the city.’’

Even in the areas where eviction drives are taking place to remove encroachers, the illegal settlers are returning to the government land again in the absence of a proper follow-up mechanism to prevent further illegal occupation of the land.

“We are witnessing the trend at the Bachelors’ Barrack slum,” said Debaprasad Das, enforcement officer of the development authority.

Councillor of Sainik School area Suryakanti Jena, however, initially denied that there was any fresh encroachment upon government land in her area.

When The Telegraph informed her of the recent developments in the area, she admitted that some slum-dwellers had been staying on the other side of the road for several months now.

A local resident said on the condition of anonymity that the councillor wouldn’t do anything that harmed her vote bank of slum-dwellers in poll time.

“The councillor would rather silently watch government land being illegally occupied,” he said.