Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) was created to save human lives from urban hazards in Bhubaneswar. But it has emerged as the worst enemy of human lives in the city. It tortures Bhubaneswar. The Law that created it is raped. A lady IAS officer, Ms. Aparajita Sarangi acts as its Commissioner and plays havoc with urban life under the wraps of deception.
A few days ago, there was an e-mail campaign amongst different e-groups of Oriya origin to project Ms. Sarangi as the most efficient urban administrator, on misconceived claims that she has transformed the city into a beautiful place to live in.
A Non-Resident Oriya, who works in USA as a Professor and doesn’t know how obnoxious is the city in reality, had initiated the campaign. Inspired as he was by the roadside paintings and sculptures that the BMC has spangled the zone spanning from the Airport to IT and Hotels hub Chandrasekharpur with, he had posted the first e-mail in this regard, he confessed. Anybody, who doesn’t regularly reside in Bhubaneswar and pays only an occasional visit to the city but does not enter into the interior, can easily be deceived by the decorations in display. All the fellows who followed suit the Professor in singing glory to Sarangi belonged to this category.
But in reality, BMC has no concern for the citizens of the city and it epitomizes the hypocrisy that Chief Minister Navin Patnaik has so far practiced to hoodwink the peoples.
Under the gloss of development it has helped contractors milk the urban funds; but health care, which constitute the core of its responsibilities, is blatantly pretermitted.
The entire interior of the City is full of solid wastes including hazardous medical wastes, filthy cowsheds, stinking excrement of cows, buffaloes, dogs and other animals. Severe lack of bare amenities in the slums is forcing the disadvantaged peoples use the roadsides for easing of their bowels. Cameras may capture how nasty is its living environment; but no camera can capture the stench that the BMC is compelling the citizens to live with.
It has been attributing its failure to dispose off solid wastes to peoples’ resentment to selection of sites for the purpose. The issue being under dispute before the High Court of Orissa, we may wait to focus on where the matter really stands. But what has happened to the only Hospital that the BMC owns and operates?
The Hospital in disarray
The BMC Hospital is in blatant disarray. Government in the Urban Development Department brings Government Doctors on deputation from the Health and Family Welfare department and posts them to this Hospital. The UD department makes the requisition for Doctors in various disciplines on the basis of the BMC’s need. The Hospital is terribly handicapped by shortage of Doctors. But the BMC is never active in pressing for filling up of the vacancies. Operation theaters are devoid of minimum amenities; indoor patients of standard food and medicines. Rooms are dirty and beds are broken. The environment is so perilous that when asked as to how he feels, a patient answered that had he ever visited hell, he should have a stock of words to express his impression! Not only it ignores the basic needs of patients, it tortures the nursing sisters who do their best to save human lives. The nurses are appointed by the BMC. They are highly skilled health workers. But the BNC has kept them devoid of regular salary and despite putting up decades long services, they are forced to perish with a paltry remuneration of around rupees fifteen hundred a month, which is much less than the minimum wages fixed under the Minimum Wages Act for unskilled workers. The Hospital is a mere sample of apathy that the BMC, busy in serving avaricious contractors, is capable of showing to health care.
The sole purpose of posting an IAS officer as Commissioner of BMC was defined by the necessity of efficient coordination amongst various departments of Orissa administration to facilitate smooth and expeditious execution of its programs and projects. The scenarios supra strongly suggest that the purpose is lost. If grace is granted on the assumption that recalcitrant attitude prevalent in different administrative departments might have contributed to such corrosion, who but Ms. Sarangi is responsible for the open rape of the BMC Act?
Open rape of OMC Act 2003
Ms. Sarangi has exhibited aggressive zeal in demolition of temporary kiosks run by marginal traders and even tiny temples built up by local peoples as community centers of worship and cultural get-together. But she has never touched the cowsheds that are run on large encroached plots by milkmen in the most lucrative locations in the capital city even though those are the principal source of unbearable unhygienic condition that the city is subjected to.
To save the city’s inhabitants and visitors from mosquito menace and from pernicious pollution, Orissa Legislature had made provisions in the Orissa Municipal Corporation Act, 2003 that had stipulated that cowsheds must stand obliterated within the limits of BMC with immediate effect. Orissa Milk Producers Association had moved the Orissa High Court against this new Law to evict milkmen from their encroached plots praying simultaneously that the Government be asked to rehabilitate them in suitable places in the city before eviction and not to impose prohibition on running of cowsheds. Orissa High Court rejected their plea. They went to the Supreme Court of India against the order of the High Court. There they also failed. The Supreme Court, in deciding Civil Appeal No.940 of 2006 arising out of SLP (C) Nos. 16362-16363 of 2004, made it absolutely clear that the milkmen must be evicted from the limits of BMC and must not be rehabilitated anywhere in the City and its periphery as “Right to environment being a fundamental right it is the duty of the State to make it sure that people get a pollution free surrounding”. The milkmen had pleaded that a former Chief Minister had assured them with rehabilitation and hence they should be given plots in substitute to run their business. Rejecting this plea, the Supreme Court had declared, “In view of the 2003 Act, even the doctrine of Promissory Estoppels will have no application”. It had further ordered that the milkmen cannot even be allowed to put up cowsheds in villages bordering Bhubaneswar. “As by reason of the Orissa Municipal Corporation Act, within the periphery of the town, dairies or cowsheds cannot be maintained, the State cannot be entitled to adhere to its earlier plan of rehabilitating them in villages mentioned therein”, it had said while observing, “Not only filth, stench and unhealthy places have to be eliminated, but the (town planning) would be such that it helps in achieving family values, youth values, seclusion and clean air to make the locality a better place to live”
Thus the Supreme Court has not only rejected the plea of milkmen to have cow-buffalo-swine-sheds in Bhubaneswar, but also has approved the provisions laid down under Sections 409, 543 and 548 of The Orissa Municipal Corporation Act, 2003, which prohibit keeping animals of cow category anywhere within and around the city limits. The judgment delivered on 2 February 2006 is published in (2006) 3 Supreme Court Cases 229. So, there was no legal problem at all on demolition of cowsheds and eviction of milkmen with their herds of animals to free the city from stench and flies and mosquitoes and malaria and filariasis and threats of cancer and tuberculosis. But Ms. Sarangi, who has earned the epithet of demolition lady, has never touched the cowsheds.
There are above 4000 illegal cowsheds in the city according to a source that confides, every cowshed operator pays bribe to the tune of Rs.2000 per month to keep the 2003 Act inoperative. If it is true, at least Rs.80 lakhs is collected as bribe from the milkmen every month to protect them from eviction.
The Law is openly raped. If bribe is not the stimulant, the BMC Commissioner as well as the State Chief Secretary should state as to why the 2003 Act, which has prohibited running of cowsheds in Bhubaneswar and in total approval of which the Supreme Court of India has passed a very welfare order for eviction of milkmen without any delay sans any rehabilitation package from the area of BMC, has not been implemented so far.