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Will Slum Dwellers Act As A Decisive Vote Bank In Bhubaneswar Yet Again?

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19 April 2019

Snigdha Chandan Das

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Bhubaneswar: Slum dwellers in the city are organised, and have been functioning as pressure groups and of course a major vote bank. Especially during elections slum dwellers become very important, in fact indispensible.

In recent years, the number of slums in the State Capital has grown by over 20 per cent, from 450 to around 540. Of these, approximately 120 are recognised by Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) whereas the rest are under unauthorised occupation.

Just like every year the candidates of all major political parties are leaving no stone unturned to swing this crucial vote bank to their side. For the ruling dispensation, BJD, the slum votes have played a major role in shoving the party to power.

In an attempt to peruse their opinion on politics and development, OMMCOM NEWS team interacted with slum dwellers in the Temple City on Friday.

A housewife of Santipalli slum, Kamala Lenka said, “Naveen Babu has helped us a lot. During his tenure our slum was transformed with all essential facilities necessary for daily chores. Water supply, electricity, toilets, rice, and education for children and healthcare we saw all this happening during his regime."

35-year-old Rajdeep Patnaik of Salia Sahi said that slum dwellers used to be a neglected lot in Bhubaneswar, hardly coming into the limelight, except for the election season.

“The perspective changed completely after Naveen Patnaik came to power. We have got houses and land patta (Record of Rights) under Mission Abaas scheme. He has a vision for reforming the slums and its inhabitants," he added.

Even as the slums continue to mushroom, the votes of the inhabitants are considered to be worth its weight in gold. Besides, Bhubaneswar denizens are in constant need of domestic workers, construction workers, cheap labour, and therefore the slums.

A Mission Shakti team leader and womens' activist Salila Mohapatra said, "I am a senior citizen and have watched Odisha, especially Bhubaneswar politics closely. The poor are not loved by politicians."

"But the equation between the poor and the Government in power was completely different after Naveen Patnaik became the Chief Minister. Our children and our entire family have benefitted a lot under his governance," she added.

Dusmanti Nayak, a woman in her 80s said that the slum dwellers here are are getting rice, pension, blankets and many more benefits regularly. And there is no disontinuation in the incentives. "In the past we voted for the BJD and this time also our choice will be the Conch (BJD's symbol)," she said.

Affordable healthcare was a major issue for the people living in the slums. "The BJD government issued health cards which facilitated quality health care for our families. We will vote for the BJD this time," said Gulshan Bibi.

So, far it appears that these slum dwellers are favouring the BJD. Bhubaneswar goes to polls on April 23 and the actual outcome of whom the residents of these urban hamlets back will be known on May 23 when the election results would be declared.

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Vox Pop, Slum Dwellers, Bhubaneswar