Satyasundar Barik

BHUBANESWAR: Pitambar Nayak, a 54-year-old resident of Gadakana village in Bhubaneswar, which is fast acquiring status of a mini-metro, suddenly feels his sphere has been squeezed and he has turned a slum dweller in his own village.

Though a landless, Maku Nayak, an eighty-year old man, had enough space to lead a dignified life in Gadakana village like his fellow villager Pitambar.

Now ever since land prices have skyrocketed in Bhubaneswar and villages have turned posh urban localities, these villagers, who have very limited source of income, have become second-class residents.

Social hierarchy

The major reason they cited for their sudden drop in social hierarchy is disappearance of vast stretches of government land (common property resources) on which these people have been collectively depending for domestic purposes such as grazing land for cattle, playing ground for their children and graveyards.

According to market estimates, one acre of land in villages such as Gadakana, Chandrasekharpur, Patia, Ghatikia and Chakeisiani costs around Rs. 3 crore to Rs. 6 crore.

Under these circumstances government-housing agencies are also eyeing at government lands to cash in on current booms. Although government gets profit out of the deal, dependant villagers on these pieces of land appeared to be the worst suffers, losing their age-old rights.

“We had about 7,000 square feet of land in 1970. With disintegration of family, I have hardly 1,000 square feet of land left in my possession,” said Pitambar Nayak, a father of six children.

According to estimates, as many as 173 villages are situated within limit of Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA). Of them 91 come in BDA jurisdiction, eight in East Kuakhai city, nine in Khurda, 13 in Jatni and 50 in new areas.

As per conservative estimate, at least 75 families in a village are either landless or marginal farmers.

Now under pressure urbanisation, these villagers are facing exit from their own villages. About 200 such families on Thursday staged demonstration outside BDA office here demanding immediate halt to acquisition of government land around their villages.

Under the banner of Orissa Adivasi Mahasabha, they demanded original villagers of capital city should be given 10 decimal of homestead land and houses under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

“Those who are affected by disappearance of common property resources should be adequately rehabilitated. These people have been living for ages. They should be made stakeholder in the development,” said Saal Mandi president of Orissa Adivasi Mahasabha.