BHUBANESWAR: With the urban elections due on March 24, political parties, BJD in particular, will have a tough task at hand in reaching out to the voters in Salia Sahi, the Capital city’s biggest slum. A stronghold of the ruling party, the slum spread over four wards has around 35,600 voters. The settlement having a cluster of 42 slums is grappling with issues ranging from lack of basic amenities to water-logging and electricity to health and housing.
The slum spread in Wards 16, 20, 21 and 26 will elect four corporators. In the 2014 urban elections, BJD had captured all the four wards. Despite its efforts, the State government has not been able to bring much changes in the condition of people living in slum. The Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC)’s urban poverty alleviation programme in the slum has also not been able to improve 'slum-dwellers' condition. The parallel road which is being constructed to connect Jayadev Vihar with Nandankanan for which land has been partially acquired from slum-dwellers has also become a bone of contention.
Locals alleged that nine months back, people of Laxmipur and Old Behera Sahi slums were evicted for the road construction and their houses were demolished. As rehabilitation, they were provided land in a forested location. “We do not have rights on the forest land and we can be removed from the place anytime by the Forest department,’’ a local rued.
Besides, people alleged that they had invested Rs 80,000 to Rs 1 lakh to construct pucca houses in the slum. However, the government provided only Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 during their rehabilitation leaving them in lurch. “From water to health, the slum is grappling with issues. Water-logging in low lying areas of the slum is common, while the civic body has not been able to control the dengue menace since the last five years,” alleged Jayadeb Nayak, a resident and president of Salia Sahi Anchalik Committee.
BJD has fielded two former corporators Premananda Jena and Bharati Singh from Wards 20 and 26 respectively, while Achyutananda Swain and Puja Behera are its candidates for Ward 16 and 21.BJP has fielded Pushpalata Nath from Ward 16, Anusaya Sahu from Ward 20, Suchitra Behera from Ward 21 and Malati Hembram from Ward 26. Congress has named Nagma Khatun, Tanu Pradhan and Padmini Marndi from Wards 16, 20 and 26 respectively. The party’s candidate name of Ward 21, however, is still not clear.
With voters of the slum still not clear about Congress candidates contesting for corporator seats from their wards, the poll is expected to be a straight fight between the BJD and BJP in the locality. However, the presence of candidates from other political parties as well as Independents could also change the equation in anyone’s favour.