Linking With ‘My City’: A Bhubaneswar Based Campaign For Betterment Of Residents & The City As a Whole!
It has been six months since Bhubaneswar topped the smart city challenge in the country but a lot remains to be done to establish it as a smart city in the true sense of the term. While too much is being said about upcoming technological advancements in the capital, the citizens need to be first provided with basic amenities. With My City Links completing three years of its journey, we have decided to run an area-wise campaign to highlight the different issues that residents face while also trying our best to bridge the gap between them and the administration.
SMART DISTRICT OF THE CAPITAL, WARD NO. 41:
Master Canteen Square and its vicinity that comes under ward number 35 is one of the priority areas to be developed in the first phase of the implementation of the smart city project. But this area unfortunately is plagued by a number of problems that have been persisting since long.
As per the smart city plan, infrastructure and development work was scheduled to begin in the zone comprising Master Canteen Square, Ashok Nagar (Unit-II), Neelachal Hospital, Mali Sahi, Forum Mart and nearby areas soon after the city won the challenge. However to the disappointment of the residents, no significant work has been taken up so far. To add to it, there seems to be no solution available for the existing problems.
The Unit II area that houses almost around 500 quarters occupied by government employees has been subject to continuing parking issues. Located immediately behind the Unit II Market Building, the visitors to the market access this residential area to park their vehicles while they shop. In case it is a festive season, the residents literally struggle to come out of their houses!
Sharing her plight with us, Swarnalata Muni, who has been residing in this area for the last 15 years said, “This problem of mismanaged parking has existed in this area even before we came to this quarter long back. We face the same problem every evening when we have to take our vehicles out of the gate. Parking issues apart, the overcrowding also affects the privacy of residents in this area.”
Not just Unit II area, for a central location like Master Canteen extending over the entire stretch of Janpath, improper parking poses the biggest problem among others.
On the other hand, the adjoining locality of Mali Sahi has been complaining of poor and inadequate drainage system. The concerns double when nearly sixty per cent of the drains that flow through the slum in the area are blocked during monsoons. Adding to the woes of the residents, the sewer water contaminates the drinking water supply to the locality.
Bhubaneswar Railway Station’s neighbouring residential area of Ashok Nagar also faces a similar situation as Rupashree Jena, a local resident complained, “Despite reconstructing the drains, water overflows on to the narrow public road when it rains making it inconvenient for residents and commuters.”
When MCL team caught up with ward corporator Mamata Sahoo to seek reasons behind the delay in addressing these problems, she told us that she had never received any complaints from the residents in the area. “I haven’t received any such complaints. However, a number of works will be undertaken under the smart city project for this area which will be decided in the upcoming meeting regarding the same. The issues stated by your team will be also discussed in the meeting and included in the list of works to be done.”
Additional Commissioner of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC), Alok Jena also assured us that the parking issues of the area will be resolved shortly with the implementation of multiple parking systems. “Parking issue apart, we are also taking care of the drainage problems of the area by cleaning the drains twice a year. But to maintain the condition of the drains, we also request the public not to dump garbage into them to avoid unnecessary blockage,” he said.
One of the common issues that people from this ward face is the rude behaviour of unruly auto drivers. This is one area where you find a lot of autos, being close to the railway station. But the behaviour of auto drivers in this part of the city is really bad. They are not at all well behaved and are very rude to their customers. That gives a wrong impression to tourists as well.
In addition to that, people living in this area have become tired of the rallies and also the traffic congestion and noise pollution they generate. Both sides of the lower PMG Road are residential areas and people believe that these rallies are a complete nuisance. Madhulita Kar, a resident of Unit-II said, “Barring few days, all throughout the year, we remain disturbed due to these so-called rallies. The roads get blocked and we are forced to tolerate unnecessary noise. This is an indecent activity on the part of the people for which we suffer.”
To this, Tanmoya Pattanayak, a resident of lower PMG added, “Two or three rallies in a year is fine but having them all round the year is ridiculous. It is not only affecting our privacy,we are also facing several other issues. At times, these people who take part in the rally can be seen occupying the open spaces right in front of our homes. That gets almost intolerable.”
Law & Order Problems
Despite being one of the prime locations of the city, the area is not devoid of law and order problems. One of the biggest concerns is the brazen manner through which sex workers operate in the area. These workers can be seen roaming around freely during evening hours, trying to solicit customers in full public glare. They have even infiltrated the residential areas much to the disapproval of the common residents and commuters travelling through the area. “I used to take bus or auto from Master Canteen, but nowadays it has become difficult to take public transport after 7.30 p.m. since the sex workers approach customers creating a nuisance on the road for other people around,” said Manisha Sritam, a daily commuter on this road.
Sabita Nanda, a professor in a Khurdha based college, added, “Being local residents of this area, we have been witnessing a decline in the security of the area with anti-social activities taking place frequently. It has become common to see sex workers doing business openly in the area. We are now afraid to venture out late in the night even if there is a medical emergency.”
Another growing problem for this area is the menace of drug addiction among a large number of children who have fallen victim to the racket. These children generally commit petty crimes like theft around the station area to afford drugs on a regular basis. Despite frequent raids by the police, the problem still troubles the local public and tourists. Theft and chain snatching are also a major concern for the localities of Unit II and Ashok Nagar. More than often, residents have raised complaints about being robbed off small utensils and other household assets from their homes.
A resident of the locality, Sambedana Das said, “Most of these thefts take place during the afternoon and night. The criminals easily escape by jumping over the boundary wall, giving us a feeling of insecurity all the time.” Echoing the same concern, Charulata Mohanty from Press Colony said, “We feel unsafe to go on morning walks too because there are frequently reported instances of chain snatching in the area.”
To know more about the security system in the area, we caught up with the IIC of Kharavel Nagar police station,Sanjiv Satpathy, who told us about the various initiatives being carried out to improve the law and order situation in the ward.
Excerpts from an interview
In Ashok Nagar and Unit-II areas, most of the residents are complaining of small thefts. So, what action is being taken to resolve this issue?
In these areas, unfortunately, most of the slum people, particularly children, are involved in such petty activities. During the daytime, they can be seen begging or roaming around the streets, trying to target houses. They indulge in these small thefts because they simply want some money to take care of their daily needs. More than often, children are involved in these thefts. As a result, as per JJ Act, we counsel them and send them back to their parents. If we find that a child is repeatedly committing the same crime, we send them to CWC. In case the accused is an adult, we immediately take action and forward him to the court. That apart, to maintain law and order situation in this prime area, our PCR van keeps patrolling 24×7.
What about sex workers who can be seen openly soliciting customers in public glare?
Yes, such activities were going on in the area, which is a legal offence too. However, we have recently deployed one section of police force including lady police officers at Master Canteen Square to check all the unsocial activities. Also recently, we have been able to bust a prostitution racket operating in this area. That apart, we have planned for a check post at Master Canteen area to check all anti-social activities, which will be done very soon.
Many children from this area can be seen falling prey to drug addiction, which gives the area and the city a wrong image. What steps are being taken to check this practice?
Yes, these children are mostly seen taking ‘Dendrite’ as drug. So we have instructed all the shops near the railway station not to sell dendrite to any child. We have also requested people not to give money to these children when they are begging on roads. To check such activities, several times, we have conducted different kinds of awareness programmes in these areas in association with GRP and Railway Police. Even some of the shopkeepers are included in these programmes. In addition to that, if we find any drug addicted child, we send him or her to a rehabilitation centre with the help of CWC. But we cannot take any strong action against them as per JJ Act.
This area is being projected as the face of the smart city project. So, what initiatives are being planned to maintain law and order in this area?
There are around four police stations for this ward. Often, people get confused where to register their complaints. To make it convenient for people, we have decided to receive complaints in all the four police stations. And after receiving the complaint, we will send it to the police station concerned. That would be our internal activity. That apart, PCR patrolling is one of the successful steps initiated by Commissionerate Police for the city, and this area in particular. We have PCR service, round the clock.