Ward No 35 is not just another ward under Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation. It is that part of the city where past meets the present and also one where the future is being planned. One of the oldest residential areas, this ward comprises Bayababa Mutt, Unit-9 (From Road 1 to 8), Redcross Bhawan, the celebrated Capital High school, Central School, Exhibition Ground, Keshari Talkies, Nalini Devi College and Labour Colony. Now, a chunk of it is being developed as main business district for Smart City in the first phase of the much-hyped project.
But the good stories end here. For, Ward no 35 wallows in civic apathy and negligence as the residents have been denied basic amenities. Garbage collection and disposal area huge issue, while drainage system is in complete disarray. Street lighting and security remain grave issues. Basic utilities like public parks and recreation centers are conspicuous by absence leaving the 20,000-plus residents of this ward in the lurch.
DRAINAGE & WATER LOGGING WOES
Although due to repeated complaints from residents, drains in Ward no. 35 were taken up for repair work recently, in most of places, the construction work has not been completed. Drains have been dug and the garbage from it has been dumped on the roadside and this is a common sight across many places in the locality. The rains have added to the woes of residents as the garbage along with mud can be seen floating across the roads.
Lalit Mohan Pattanaik, an old resident of Kharvel Nagar tells MCL, “We have been talking about smart city but in this particular ward, which is considered a posh area of the capital, people are struggling to get basic facilities they deserve. Drainage and waterlogging have always been a problem associated with the area. Although the authorities recently took up the drain repair and renovation work, they haven’t done it properly. Unless you clear the garbage from the construction site, the problems will persist and that’s what is happening here.”
The slum which has a population of 1000-odd dwellers has only two public toilets, which have not been well maintained. Says K. Sabitha Rao, 62, “There are only two toilets for the entire slum, one for men and another for women. Most of the time women can be seen making a long queue in the morning to use the toilet. What is worse is the fact that the toilets which of course get over used are not sanitised and there is always this stench coming from them.”
Not just Mali Colony, the Unit III Exhibition ground, which is one of the most important locations that comes under this ward, has four public toilets, two for men and two for men, that have been left unattended even though the ground holds events round the year. Unwanted plants block the entrance of these toilets, which without maintenance are no longer in a condition to be used.
The slum area in this ward also faces drinking water problem. There are only four water tanks for the entire slum, which is not enough. Although people had been promised water supply connection, not a single connection has been given to any house so far. “We use the water from the tanks for everything and sometimes we have to wait long to collect water from the tank. And, every day, we face a problem while washing utensils because we have to go all the way to the water point to do that, which gets tiring,” rues Tirumal Devi of Mali colony.
Dysfunctional street lights add to the list of problems for the slum dwellers. Most of the streetlights are not in working condition. And, the few that give some light are operated manually by the people.
62-year-old Ramachandra Bhoi, living in the Mali colony tells MCL, “Street lights are there only for namesake in our area. There is no switchboard for them as well. For the one in front of my house, (Quarter no 28), we connect two electric wires to switch it on, which is not a safe thing to do. But we don’t have a choice. Without street light, the entire area would be left in dark.”
LAW & ORDER ISSUES
Although this ward covers many important areas of the capital, poor security continues to be a major concern for the residents. Theft, eve teasing and snatching cases are reported frequently from this area.
“People getting drunk and creating a ruckus on streets is a common sight in our locality. And, we need support of police to get rid of such elements. However, when recently we took the help of cops for such an issue, they told us not to call the police for every little thing and resolve it on our own. We cannot take the law in our hands and you never know how a drunkard can retaliate when stopped,” complains Sthithaprangya Patnaik, a businessman living in Kharvel Nagar.
Even eve-teasing continues unabated in few areas under the ward. Pritee Nanda Prusty, a college-going girl residing in Unit 9 tells us that she has to face awkward situations many a time while moving around her locality. “Boys sit here in groups and pass comments at girls. Sometimes they even drink in the open without any fear. It gets difficult for young girls like me,” she adds.
Theft is another major issue that the residents of this ward live with. Bahni Prangya Pattanayk, owner, Dream Computer, Kharvel Nagar informs, “Every month, there are two to three theft cases reported from our locality. Recently, some thieves tried to loot my shop too but they were not successful. Although we have complained about such incidents at our nearest police station, no action has been taken to strengthen the security system.”
Not just Kharvel Nagar, residents of Unit 9 and Mali Colony also had similar stories to share with us. “Thefts and snatching incidents have become a way of life for us. Just the other day, my relative visited me in a cycle and it was stolen from my house in broad daylight, in just 30 minutes. We have stopped complaining because nothing much happens,” says Girija Pati who lives in Unit 9 area. Similarly, G. Anant Reddy from Mali Colony shares, “Although most of the thefts from our area are minor in nature like thefts of mobile phones, utensils and such things, they keep taking place frequently.
Chain snatching cases are also reported in regular intervals. Kabita Panda, a 40-year-old housewife residing in Unit-9 Bayababa Matha Lane shares her concerns with us as she explains, “Chain snatching incidents are reported mostly in the early morning and evening hours from our locality. Recently, my mother-in law had to bear the brunt during her evening walk. She also got injured when the miscreants snatched her chain. But till now, no arrest has been made despite a formal complaint.”
However, Sanjeev Satpathy, IIC of Kharvelnagar Police Station has a different story to share. “Thefts or snatching incidents are not just limited to this ward. They are taking place all across the city. Rather, the numbers have come down compared to last year in Ward no. 35. I am not saying that this area is crime free but it isn’t that bad either. Besides, we have identified the crime prone areas under this ward and have started strict patrolling to keep miscreants away. As far as people getting drunk and creating problems is concerned, in 2015, we have apprehended as many as 2486 drunkards and collected fine from them, which is a record figure for Commissionerate Police,” he points out.
Meanwhile, MCL met corporator Debasish Siet of ward number 35 to apprise him of the issues that the ward is currently facing and he assured us that all problems will be resolved as soon as possible. “Yes, it is true that the repair work hasn’t been completed for some of the drains in the ward but it is a time taking process and I will personally ensure that it gets sorted in the next 10 days. As far as the slum area is concerned, we are trying to construct two more public toilets soon for the slum dwellers. For other sanitation issues, we have assigned ward officers but if problems are continuing as pointed out by MCL, we will try to resolve all of them as soon as possible. Even we have installed street lights everywhere. However, if some of them are not in working condition, they will be repaired soon. As far as the exhibition ground is concerned, that comes under BDA and therefore they are responsible for the maintenance of public toilets in the ground.”