The residents of Kathagada Parbatia Sahi, a slum in Dhenkanal city in Odisha, lead a hard life, like in any other slum. The slum is home to 123 households deprived of basic civic amenities, like piped water supply, access to proper roads, sanitation, electricity, etc, making it difficult for the inhabitants. To add to the misery, the families lived in constant fear of eviction. City life wasn’t easy for the people in this slum. The community opines that despite several appeals in the past to address various issues, not much attention was given to their problems.
When the Tata Trusts Field Team including Jaga Fellows, along with officials from Dhenkanal Municipality, conveyed the Government of Odisha’s decision to support the slum dwellers by providing land tenure security and ensuring basic infrastructural facilities, it was hard for the community to believe. To them, it seemed like another empty promise, until the beneficiaries received Land Rights Certificates, followed by Land Entitlement certificates for the land they were residing on. It reassured the community that no eligible family would be missed out and all would receive their lawful rights.
Jaga Fellows of Tata Trusts conducted intensive workshops and awareness meetings in the slums to explain about the benefits under Odisha Land Rights and Slum Dwellers Act, and Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission or Jaga Mission. After land rights were granted to the slum households, participatory need assessment was organised to understand services and infrastructure gap. The Tata Trusts’ team at the State Level Project Management Unit developed the design for infrastructure, prepared the estimate for budget, plan of convergence with other development schemes and project timeline, and shared them with the officials of Dhenkanal Municipality for initiating execution. The members of the Slum Dweller Associations of Kathagada Parbatia Sahi were imparted training for participating in the execution process and monitoring the quality of work. The frequent engagement and timely execution of the work helped in building a good rapport with the community members and gaining their confidence.
As a response to the Covid pandemic, the Government of Odisha initiated the country’s first wage employment scheme known as MUKTA to provide livelihood opportunities to urban poor. Under this scheme, the development work in the slums is carried out by the Slum Dweller Associations instead of contractors. The Slum Dweller Associations are considered as implementing partners and wages are transferred to their accounts for direct benefit transfer to the beneficiary account. Under the scheme, the implementing partners are entitled to get 7.5% of the project cost towards their supervision charges. This has provided opportunity for the skilled and unskilled labourers from the slum to earn their livelihoods.
The Tata Trusts’ team at the State Level Project Management Unit and Jaga Fellows played an active role in facilitating the initiative by mobilising communities to participate in ward-level meetings to finalise the slum upgradation work. This activity was followed by orienting the officials of urban local bodies on the MUKTA programme and processes, and facilitating preparation of technical designs and methodologies for faster estimation and budget approval and execution of work – all in close consultation with the slum communities. This timely intervention provided livelihood opportunities to people on one hand, upgraded the infrastructure and transformed the slum into liveable habitats on the other.
In Kathagada Parbatia Sahi slum, out of a total 123 households, 120 households are granted Land Rights and Entitlement Certificates. Paved roads and covered storm water drains have been constructed throughout the slum, individual and public toilets are constructed, 23 street lights are erected and every household is supplied with piped drinking water and electricity. An open space has been developed, having a badminton court, equipment for exercises for all age groups, and kids’ play equipment like swing, seesaws, slides, etc. A multipurpose community centre — Parichaya – has been constructed adjacent to the open space for community gatherings.
Ashok Kumar Rout, Secretary of the Kathagada Parbatia Sahi Slum Dwellers Association (SDA), expressed appreciation on behalf of the community: “The slum upgradation activities undertaken during the pandemic have supported the slum dwellers immensely and in a timely manner. A sigh of relief was let out by the families who were facing financial difficulties due to loss of jobs and employment during Covid-19. The consistent engagement of the Tata Trusts’ team and officials from Dhenkanal Municipality, with the SDA, has built our confidence to take up various development activities even outside the slums.”
The residents of Kathagada Parbatia Sahi slum are a happy, contended lot today.
While dense in population, the slums and informal settlements emerged as a major challenge to control the spread of the corona virus. The well-designed public spaces developed under the Odisha Liveable Habitat Project in informal settlements have given possible solutions by promoting public safety and improving aesthetics of the slums. In Kathagada Parbatia Sahi slum, lighting in open spaces and streets, and other upgrades within slums, are making neighbourhoods safer. It is helping ease overcrowding and promote healthier lifestyles during the pandemic.