ROURKELA: The district administration decision to seek transfer of Sundargarh Government College’s land for in-situ rehabilitation of slum dwellers has evoked sharp criticism. On September 16 this year, Sundargarh Collector Nikhil Pawan Kalyan wrote to the Director of Higher Education to relinquish the college land at the district headquarters town for rehabilitation of 20 slum households under the Odisha Land Right to Slum Dwellers (OLRSD) Act, 2017. The slum dwellers are illegally occupying 26.20 decimal of the college land.
The Housing and Urban Development (H&UD) department has also endorsed the move. In September, H&UD principal secretary G Mathivathanan wrote a letter to the Higher Education department describing the OLRSD Act as a landmark decision and the government’s willingness for in-situ rehabilitation of eligible slum dwellers by December 31.
These facts came to the fore after the college administration on November 13, replied to an RTI application filed by alumni association secretary Natakishore Mishra. As per the RTI documents available with The New Indian Express, the Higher Education department on November 2 asked the Collector to submit details and sketch map of the college land to be relinquished for the slum households.
Expressing reservations, college principal Lalit Ranjan Sahu on November 5 wrote to the department stating it would hinder development of the educational institution and cited a proposal to house a Central Tribal University on the campus.
On Friday, the Higher Education department shot off another letter to the Collector asking to resubmit land details by clearly marking the areas in possession of the college and slum dwellers. It also asked the principal to describe the problems the college will face if the slum dwellers are given records of rights of its land. Established in 1958, Sundargarh Government College initially had 176.296 acre of land. Another patch of around 22.250 acre of the college land in possession of the Horticulture division, was proposed to be alienated in favour of the Agriculture department by the Higher Education department vide a letter dated April 22, 2017.
The alumni association has also criticised the move. “The government has given away the college land to the Agriculture Department and Rourkela Development Authority in the past. Besides, the college land is also encroached upon by slums a by-pass road,” he alleged. Sundargarh Government College has around 3,000 students, mostly tribal, and runs at least eight post graduate departments with plans to introduce self-financing courses soon.
Contacted, Collector Kalyan said two days back, a government notification was issued for regularisation of land of government colleges and schools. “We will carefully see if in-situ rehabilitation is possible by dividing the college land. If it is not possible, we will rehabilitate them in other areas,” he said. Asked about his letter on in-situ rehabilitation of slum households on the college campus, Kalyan said, “I have to cross check it.”