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Slum kids welcome RAY houses, but…

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OST Bureau

Bhubaneswar, Oct 6 :

How do the children growing up in slums in the city view the state government’s initiative to build houses for their families ?

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After chief minister Naveen Pattnaik laid the foundation stone of Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) houses at Mahishi Khal and Patharbandha slums in the city on Saturday, Humara Bachpan, a national NGO campaigning on safe and healthy environment for young children in urban poverty spoke to the children in these slum colonies to see how they responded to the initiative.

” It’s indeed a welcome step. We are hopeful that we shall get houses of our own, which will allow us to grow up in safer environment” said 11 year old Prakash Swain from Mahisikhal.

Children from Humara Bachpan child clubs have been advocating for a safer living space for themselves and government’s efforts in providing them with a house will better their current situation, a spokesperson for the NGO said.

“It’s not the housing issue alone, we don’t have access to water facilities, and electricity which hampers our growth “opined Prakash.

In Mahisikhal, the electric sub-station is very close to the slum and source of threat to the children, he said.

“The CM visited these slums for the first time so, children have become hopeful that now things will get better. But, under the current RAY scheme houses provided are of only 350 sq feet which wouldn’t be suitable for a family of four or five members, especially where there are children,” said Sadashiv Swain, CCWD who has been working across 30 slums in Bhubaneswar since 1994.

In Patharbandha slum where the major issues are lack of sanitation facilities; unsafe and poor housing, 11 year old Pujashree Behera, said “We don’t have toilets, and we can only go out after its dark. Open defecation is predominant in our colony. But
the CM said things would soon be better and that makes me happy and hopeful.”

“There are 7.6 million children in India who don’t have access to basic facilities such as proper and well ventilated housing, sanitation facilities, access to clean water, and adequate space for recreation. That makes them susceptible to several diseases while impairing their growth,” said Preeti Prada, National Campaign Coordinator, Humara Bachpan.

“Humara Bachpan is trying to facilitate a safe and healthy environment for children growing up in urban poverty in India. CM’s visit was itself commendable and brings a ray of hope for the children. But we have to see to it that whatever government initiatives under RAY and JnNURM are taken, they should be in the right direction and should benefit the children and the community ” she said.

According to the 2011 census, 39% of the households in the slums in Odisha have a one-room dwelling and only 34% have two rooms. While an overwhelming 49.6% of the households do not have any bathing facility, about 8.5 lakh people in 1.7 lakhs households (48.33%) defecate in the open. 53.9% of the households do not have any drainage connectivity for waste water.

The state government’s sanitation strategy aims to fulfill its mandate within the period, 2012 to 2018. But, with the current budget allocation things appear a distant dream.

“The allocation made for this purpose was Rs. 18.77 Cr (1.33 percent) during 2012-13 which was reduced to only Rs. 50 lakhs for the year 2013-14 which is a ridiculous 0.02 percent of the total allocation,” rued an activist working in the field of sanitation.