Every year, hundreds
of people residing in the slums suffer from various diseases like cholera,
diarrhoea, dengue, malaria and other gastroenteritis diseases due to the
unhygienic surrounding and contaminated water.
“After outbreak of the diseases, teams of
the health officials rush to the spot and the civic body also promise to
ensure adequate cleanliness in the area. But inevitable happens. The
authorities only make promises,” said Brundaban Azad, president of All
Odisha Jhopad Patti Mahasangh. The slum dwellers have alleged that
government ignores the unsanitary condition in the slums.
“No municipality worker comes here to
clean the roads or clear the drains. The heaps of garbage lies in the
slums for days together and no one comes to clean it up,” said Kalia
Rout, a dweller of Hairanpur slum.
This is not the plight of
Hairanpur slum dwellers only. Dwellers of all the 309 slums in the city
live a life of similar misery and pain.
“We are forced to live in such unhygienic
and unhealthy condition. The heaps of garbage lying un-cleaned in the
slum emanate foul smell and also prove a perfect breeding ground of
mosquitoes and flies. But the civic body is not worried about our
plight,” said Swarnalata Das, a dweller of the Behera sahi slum. And all
this is because slums are never considered as important as other areas
of the city by the administration. So services such as sanitation and
garbage collection hardly reach the slums. It’s to be noted that the CMC
in 2011 had introduced mechanized sweeping in the city with an aim to
change the face of the city.
It was touted that the roads will shine
and the slums will sparkle after introduction of mechanized sweeping,
but nothing of that sort actually happened. Contrast to the civic body’s
assurance of cleaning the slums regularly, the sweepers never turn up to
clean the garbage.
Residents of Hairanpur slum allege that
they have made repeated complaints to the municipality over the unclean
roads, but nothing has been done. Now, if we are to think that every
slum more or less share the same set of problems such as sewage, unclean
water and road, we get a picture where the city administration is
practically ignoring the need demand of over two lakh people. “We are
also the residents of the city and have the right to live in a proper
environment but the civic body pays no heed to our problem,” said
Mangaraj, a slum dweller of Tanla Sahi slum. Almost 60% of the slums do
not have proper drainage system in place. Similarly, majority of the
slums do not have access to safe drinking water which adds to the woes
of the slum dwellers. Out of 309 slums, only 50 slums have the access
to safe drinking water while others are forced to use the contaminated
water from Taladanda canal or Kathajodi River. But the list of problem
does not end here. The shortage of public toilets in the city has made
the lives of slum dwellers all the more difficult. There are only 57
public toilets in the city for a population of over six lakh. The figure
itself speaks about the seriousness of the problem. The number of public
toilets is negligible compared to that of the population of the slums.
For the 309 slums in the city there are only 57 public toilets and most
of them are in dilapidated condition, not fit for use.
Due to shortage of slums, the dwellers are
often forced to defecate in the open which deteriorates the sanitation
condition of the slums further.
“Open defecation is an unhealthy habit but
the slum dwellers do not have much choice. The administration should
take measures to improve things, “said Bibhuti Ray, a social worker.
Interestingly, the CMC in 2009 had
announced to make Cuttack a “slum free” city in next 10 years. But
instead of decreasing the number of slums in the city is on rise. The
number of slums in 2009 in Cuttack was 257 and after four years the
number has increased to 309. It shows the seriousness of district
administration in resolving the problems of slum dwellers.
"There is no specific development policy
for the slums in Cuttack. In fact, the CMC has never bothered to chalk
out a detail plan to improve the sanitation condition of the slums. The
local leaders only visit the slum dwellers during elections and later
tend to forget them," added Azad.
But the civic authorities have refuted the
allegations. “The allegations are completely false. We have started
construction work of several residential complexes to rehabilitate
slum-dwellers. In the first phase, two concrete structures are being
constructed at Tulasipur and Andarpur area to rehabilitate the slum
dwellers. These buildings are equipped with all kinds of facilities.
There is constant pressure of migration from fringe and rural areas and
the number of slums is increasing every year. Still, we are trying to
improve things from our end. Improvement of the sanitation condition of
the slums is also a priority area in our agenda,” stated Saumendra Ghose,
Mayor of Cuttack. Besides providing shelter, the government also needs
to provide other civic facilities to the slum dwellers. Otherwise they
will continue to live in the unhealthy condition that they do now.
(Author is a
Journalist from Odisha. This particular article is written as part of
the NFI media fellowship programme awarded by National foundation for