The Telegraph
Friday , March 28 , 2014
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Empty houses turn den for goons

Bhubaneswar, March 27: The resident welfare associations of various colonies promoted by the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) and Odisha State Housing Board (OSHB) are worried over unoccupied houses that were allotted long ago.

Members of the residents’ welfare association of Kalinga Vihar are more vocal in this regard because they are facing threats from goons, who use unoccupied houses for their activities.

“We have written to the BDA authorities on various occasions in the past. There are at least 37 unoccupied core houses out of the 469 in the high-income group (HIG) category in Kalinga Vihar, which are lying vacant. On several occasions, we have seen goons using them as their hideouts,” said Kalinga Vihar Residents’ Welfare Association president B.B. Samant.

Another resident, P.K. Mohapatra, said the authorities had written to the owners of the vacant houses. “But nothing has changed,” he said.

Samant said Kalinga Vihar colony was included in the municipal corporation area on February 20. “Prior to that, we had to collect money to carry out many civic activities. However, the owners of the unoccupied houses never contributed,” he said.

In Pokhariput’s Ananta Vihar Phase-II colony, of the 160 houses under the middle-income group (MIG) category, nearly 25 are lying vacant.

Ananta Vihar Resident Welfare Association secretary Chaturbhuj Bhuyan ascribed three reasons for non-occupancy of allotted houses. “First, these people have more than one house and they are staying at the other house located at a convenient place. Some might be staying outside Odisha. In some cases, the family may have a problem with the location of the house,” he said.

“We have organised a meeting of the members and also informed such house owners and requested them to occupy their houses,” said Bhuyan.

“We have personally informed three owners and they have started construction of their houses. In one case, the members of our association had to interfere when a labourer staying in an unoccupied house was found selling liquor,” he said.

Interestingly, BDA has provision stipulating that if a person does not occupy the core house for five years or more, the authority can cancel the lease and re-auction the property.

BDA officials said many owners were not responding to the letters asking them to occupy their allotted houses. BDA allotment officer Sibanarayan Nanda said the resident welfare associations had greater responsibility to contact all their allottee friends.

“Once an allottee gives the entire amount against his property and takes possession on pen and paper, we never go for any action. Only if a person defaults on the payment or does not take possession after paying the amount, we issue letters,” he explained.

At Khandagiri Housing Board Colony, where 380 houses were distributed under HIG and MIG categories 14 years ago, 10 are lying unoccupied.

“After the authorities wrote letters, two owners started some construction and we now have eight houses unoccupied. These empty houses also create security threats for others,” said president of residents welfare association S.P. Mishra.

Odisha State Housing Board secretary Pradipta Kumar Patnaik said: “Once the allottee pays the entire money to the board, the house becomes his property. Whether he or she uses it or not is not our problem. However, in case of any specific complaints by the residents’ welfare association, actions could be taken.”