Bhubaneswar: Ajur Behera is a poor villager in her late 50s living in Badsar village under Pipili block of Puri district. Residing in her kutcha house for decades, she saw a hope when the Biju Janata Dal, in 2014, promised pucca houses for all living in kutcha houses with financial assistance.
Almost on the verge of completion of the 5-year period of the fourth term of the BJD government, the state administration has failed to keep the promise of transforming the lives of people like Behera due to varied reasons. It is unlikely that the target can be achieved and the target of giving pucca houses to all by the end of this term seems to have turned into a mirage.
“We are living in kutcha houses and facing all vagaries of nature in different seasons, be it rains, summer or the chilling winter. We are yet to get a pucca house from the government. We are asked by the local administrators to pay hefty bribes to get a pucca house,” Behera told Orissa POST.
Similar views were echoed by others from the village. Banaboli Baral, a 62-year-old farmer from the village, has been running from pillar to post for over a decade to get a pucca house but has no option but to live in his ramshackle dwelling under the administration of a government which promised pucca homes to all half a decade ago.
The villagers told this reporter that more than 65 per cent of the total households in the village are kutcha houses as many are still awaiting government aid which seemed to have eluded them. Similar is the tale of Bantaligram village in Gop block of Puri district where the rich and powerful live in concrete houses.
Similar reports are evident from different pockets of Nayagarh and Kendrapara where many rural households living in thatched houses are awaiting assistance from the state government. All this wait has been in vain till now. The BJD, in a bid to woo voters, during the election campaign in 2014, had promised to convert all kutcha houses into pucca houses if their government returned to power. Although the government did come to power, the promises did not transform into reality.
According to the government’s own admission in the state Assembly in the 2018 Winter Session, of the 25 lakh target set for constructing pucca houses in the last 4.5 years, the state government could build only around 21 lakh pucca houses while there are barely a few months left for the next elections for this government to construct 4 lakh more pucca houses.
Panchayati Raj Minister Ramesh Majhi has stated that the target to complete 25 lakh pucca houses cannot be met by the end of March 2019. When contacted to seek response on whether the target could be completed before next elections, Majhi said, “No. Not all houses can be made pucca before 2019 elections but we are trying our best to cover all kutcha houses. Some houses have been built, but there are many more houses which are yet to be completed.”
It is important to note that a large number of old houses, started under the Centrally funded scheme Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) were lying incomplete due to bureaucratic apathy for a long time. The name of this Central scheme has, in the meanwhile, been changed to Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY).
This claim of completing 21 lakh houses is highly doubtful as the figure has taken into account these old pending constructions as new projects to jack up the figures. While figures may jump on government records, the poor beneficiaries have been deprived of getting houses as very few new names have been enrolled.