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Odisha family that lived in toilet built under Swachh Bharat gets shelter

The plight of a homeless family forces to take shelter in a toilet is a telling commentary on the crushing poverty in Odisha’s tribal belts.

india Updated: Jul 24, 2017 07:15 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Bhubaneswar, Hindustan Times
Odisha,Swachh Bharat Abhiyan,Keonjhar
Abject poverty has forced a homeless man and his family in Odisha’s mineral-rich Keonjhar district to live inside a toilet to escape the rain.(Photo courtesy: Sambad)

Officials in Odisha’s mineral-rich Keonjhar district moved a family that was living inside a toilet built under the government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, hours after their condition was reported in an Odia daily and on HT’s website on Sunday.

Daktar Naik, a tribal in Bhuyansahi of Ichinda village of the district was living inside the toilet which was built by state-run Odisha Mining Corporation a few months ago, the Odia daily Sambad reported Sunday.

Hours after his family’s condition was first reported by the Odia daily, officials said the family had been moved to a proper house.

“He would be staying in the quarter till the construction of his house by OMC is over,” said the Keonjhar district collector. HT carried a story on the condition of the Naik family on its website at around 11am.

Photographs showed Naik sitting near the toilet door while another shows his baby girl Nisha next to the toilet pan. Several sacks of grains were stacked over each other next to the baby.

None of the 40 tribal families of the village who belong to the BPL category have been given houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (or its earlier version of Indira Awas Yojana). Even the District Mineral Foundation formed under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015 for development of the tribals in mineral-bearing areas have not been able to improve their lot. Mineral-rich states like Odisha can receive around Rs 800 crore annually in DMF as mandatory contribution from mining companies.

Though a daily labourer like Daktar Naik and his family live under tattered polythenes or in someone’s dilapidated house, in rainy days things become difficult for him. Naik told the newspaper that since last few months he has been sleeping inside the toilet with his family. His wife Nandini cooks outside the toilet. The family goes out to nearest forest for defecation.

In 2009, Keonjhar district came into focus over the unbridled theft of minerals like iron ore and manganese by allegedly by existing leaseholders in violation of a host of mining laws. The Justice MB Shah Commission which later probed the Rs 59000-odd crore scam said that if the value of the iron ore and manganese mined in Sundargarh and Keonjhar districts for one year were given to the tribal families of the two districts, each of the tribals would be richer by Rs 9.43 lakh. “If the same amount is distributed among all the families of the two districts, they would be richer by Rs 4.5 lakh each,” the Commission wrote in its report in 2014.

The Commission had recommended a CBI probe into the mega mining scam, but neither the state government nor the Centre has shown any urgency to follow it up.

“It is forgotten that the mining operations are carried out in the areas belonging to the tribal and tribal people are displaced or stay in pathetic and miserable conditions in the same area. The villagers are forced to breathe polluted air and drink polluted water. In the nearby villages where mining operations are carried out, stream and ground water is polluted. There is hardly any facility of drinking water. We have seen some women fetching water from dirty nullahs. It is apparent that those persons who are looting minerals which is a limited national wealth, are not prepared to share fraction of their income for development of area from where minerals are extracted,” the report said.

First Published: Jul 23, 2017 23:54 IST