By Tamanna Aktar
With no councillor to voice the concerns, the Dhanas Housing Board Complex, which falls under a panchayat, is going to seed, as residents suffer from water shortage, clogged sewerage pipelines and allegedly exaggerated utility bills.
Dhanas, which is a rehabilitation colony, was carved out of the village land to accommodate slum-dwellers, about five years ago.
A resident of the colony, daily wager Anil Kumar, lives here in a one-room flat with five other members of his family. “We are thankful to the government for providing a roof over our head. Before this, we used to live in a slum in Sector 26. Then, we moved here, for which we paid Rs 5,000 at once and now, we are liable to pay Rs 960 every month, which was earlier Rs 860. Here, the electricity bill is the main issue. I do not know how, but every month we have to pay a bulky amount for electricity. This month also we were billed Rs 1,000 for only using a bulb,” he said.
Another resident, Shabana Begum, who is also a hawker, said, “I try to help my husband to meet our monthly expenses. Earlier, we lived in Sector 38 colony. We were provided with ration, electricity, water free of cost there. After we shifted here, all those benefits were terminated. We need to pay the bills for our utilities. It is hard for us...mujhe to charpai modker dukan lagane k lie bhi har mahine Rs 850 dene padte hain (even for putting up a stall by the road, I pay Rs 850 every month),” she said.
When asked about these issues, BJP leader Swaraj Upadhyay said that the reason behind these problems was that area did not have a councilor. “On a personal level, I tried to put across the issues in the house, time-to-time. But the main problem is officialdom, the officers do what they want to do,” he said.
Baring the poor condition of sewerage pipelines in the area, a resident, Pradeep Kumar said, “Ye dekhiye..inka yehi haal rehta hain (See the condition, this is how it remains). No one comes here to clean them up. Once or twice we have collectively paid for its cleaning. But we cannot afford to pay for it every time. This has become the cause of spread of many communicable diseases here.”
President of the Housing Complex Residential Welfare Association, Prempal Chauhan, who is also a face of Congress here, said, “Raising these concerns, we had organised protests earlier and even complaints have been filed a dozen times. However, the truth is that the MC members never visit this area. People face water issues in the area. Sewerage is another problem. We have even written to the DC about these issues. At times work is done, but that too on temporary basis. Within a few days, the situation goes back to the usual,” he said.
“The water tank, which was dug up in 2013, is seldom cleaned. At times, brown-coloured dusty water comes out of our taps. Garbage collection is another issue here. When collectors are asked, they allege that there is a shortage of vehicles. We filed a complaint regarding this to the Chief Engineer and the same was raised in the house, but no action has been taken yet,” he added.
Shriram, a hawker, who lives in a two-room rented flat with his family of nine, complained that government policies had brought adversities to him, than benefits. “I am a poor person. There are days on which we do not even earn a single penny. Yet, every morning we are told of a new scheme formulated to squeeze money out of the poor. Economic crisis, demonetisation, new schemes, these policies have wrecked our livelihood. A well-to-do man can do without buying gold but people like me, our dreams revolve around getting a full meal a day. Few days back, I was told that for paying bill exceeding one thousand rupees we are required to have an ATM card. I have never had enough savings so I will need a bank account. Now, I need to do rounds of a bank, but even if I take a single day off, it will mean that I will be going home without enough earnings. Can I afford to waste even a single day? “
When contacted, Chandigarh MC Commissioner KK Yadav said, “For raising concerns, people do not need a councilor, they can directly come to us. I give assurance that their problems will not only be heard but also resolved. The development work related to these colonies built by the housing board are facing some issues and for solving them, we have included a provision of Revolving Fund, which, on acceptance will be given to the housing board. Meanwhile, resolution of technical issues demands time.”
“This colony is not under the Housing Board, neither under the MC. The MC will take it under its jurisdiction in the next session in 2021. We will soon allocate special funds for the maintenance of the rehabilitation colonies in Maloya, Sector 49 and Dhanas,” said Rajesh Kumar Kalia, Mayor, Chandigarh.