In historic move, Odisha gives land rights to 2,000 slum dwellers -Ashok Pradhan

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published Published on May 8, 2018   modified Modified on May 8, 2018
-The Times of India

BHUBANESWAR: In an unprecedented move described by industrialist Ratan Tata as ‘earth-shaking’, and which prompted Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to take recourse to British author Aldous Huxley, Odisha on Monday provided land rights certificates to 2,000 landless slum dwellers and promised to develop modern urban habitats complete with roads, street lights, parks and playgrounds for them.

The initiative is the culmination of the Odisha Land Rights to Slum Dwellers Act, 2017, notified in October last year, and is expected to help the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the assembly and Lok Sabha election scheduled for early next year. Under the Act, the government had promised to give 45 square metre of land to landless slum dwellers in municipal towns and 60 square metre in notified area councils (smaller towns).

The government on Monday also launched the Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission to ensure liveable communities and infrastructure in slums. Naveen, who handed over the land documents to the first lot of beneficiaries from nine small towns in the Puri and Ganjam districts at an event in Chhatrapur, said, “As chief minister, I would love to see Odisha at the vanguard of creating a brave new world.”

His sentiments were echoed by Tata, whose Tata Trusts was given the task of surveying the feasibility of the Act. “Odisha as a progressive state will certainly fulfill the hopes and aspirations of slum dwellers who are the lifeline of cities,” the pioneer said. Terming the occasion as ‘historic’, Tata assured “wholehearted support’ of Tata Trusts to ‘convert the dream of the chief minister into reality’.

Besides Tata, the event was attended by visionary British architect Norman Foster and state government dignitaries and officials. “Odisha’s initiative will have a ripple effect across the world. It will give a signal to the global community and aid their involvement in this kind of legislation (giving land rights and homes to the landless),” Foster said.

Though several states have extended land rights to the landless, Odisha’s move to provide slum dwellers with modern urban facilities is the first of its kind in the country, the government said. The state government plans to extend the benefits to one million slum dwellers (around three lakh families) across 2,500 slums within a year.

In March, the government signed an MoU with Tata Trusts for support on slum redevelopment. The Madrid-based Norman Foster Foundation, which has expertise in urban design and architecture, has also shown an interest in the project. “We will work out the modalities on how the foundation can be involved,” said housing and urban development secretary G Mathivathanan.

The state’s intervention would go far beyond giving slum dwellers land rights. “Through Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission, the government will ensure the best-possible modern infrastructure for redeveloping slums into proper living spaces,” he added.

Slum rights activists, however, expressed skepticism about the government’s move. “This can be a pioneering model if implemented with sincerity. But the government has given land rights to only a handful of people, with the election a year away. I don’t think the ambitious goals it has set can be met so quickly,” said Pramila Behera, general secretary of Basti Suraksha Manch, an outfit working for the well-being of slum dwellers.
The Times of India, 8 May, 2018, please click here to access

The Times of India, 8 May, 2018,

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