Odisha Government has created history in winning the prestigious World Habitat Award for successfully implementing its Jaga Mission which provides land rights to those living in slums and securing their access to other entitlements such as water, electricity, sanitation and education.
Odisha Government under the leadership of Shri Naveen Patnaik led Government getting this coveted award so far conferred on individuals, public trusts and activists world over constitutes a crowning glory for the State and our country.
Shri Patnaik's bold and constructive vision embodied in the Jaga Mission creatively conjured up the plan that slum dwellers who often get heartlessly thrown out of their dwelling site would be empowered to possess a piece of land and get access to a healthy and habitable surrounding for leading a dignified and respectable life and meaningfully contributing to larger urban community. Implemented in 2018 it has benefitted more than 50, 000 slum dwellers and aims at covering a million people living in unhealthy slums of towns and cities of Odisha.
The triumph registered by Odisha in winning this prestigious award has put the State yet again in the global stage and set a shining example of governance of city and urban areas which are now getting enlarged due to accelerated pace of urbanisation.
The State of Odisha which has an exemplary and globally recognised record of governance in managing natural disasters and saving precious human lives has emerged as a role model in empowering slum dwellers with empathy and earnestness of a caring Government.
The eloquent statement of Chief of World Habitat, David Ireland, that “the Jaga Mission has guaranteed land rights of residents in slums and improved their living conditions at an astonishing scale” sums up its seminal importance and excellence.
The jury while selecting Odisha Government for its commendable work specially noted and admired the speed and accelerated pace of the implementation of the project which is backed by an enabling legislation titled Odisha Land Rights to Slum Dwellers Act 2017.
The extraordinary accomplishment of Shri Naveen Patnaik Government in combining law and jurisprudence with a humanistic vision for the cause of shelter security and human development of slum dwellers who remained under perpetual threat of eviction has set an example of urban renewal and sustainable urban planning for India and rest of the world. Ratan Tata who is integral to the Jaga Mission as a technical partner insightfully observed "It is an earth shaking initiative for providing entitlement to a million slum dwellers". Lord Foster whose Norman Foster Foundation is working on a pro bono basis to redesign and convert the slums to liveable projects described the Jaga Mission as a dream project and used his expertise on architecture to provide liveable surroundings with easy access to water security, educational facilities and other human and civic entitlements.
Hailed as the largest slum tilting project of the world it valued both land and people in contrast to the oft followed practice of ignoring people while treating land as more precious than human beings.
When the project was commenced in 2018 in Chatrapur in Ganjam district of Odisha, Chief Minister Shri Patnaik had thoughtfully said "...I would like to see Odisha in the vanguard of creating this brave new world and do every thing to make it possible".
The conferment of the World Habitat Award on Odisha Government for the successful implementation of Jaga Mission is a recognition of Shri Patnaik's vision of creating a brave new world.
It is all the more historic and satisfying that people and Government of Odisha have been honoured with this award when the country is celebrating 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi who in 1917 had said with rare farsightedness that "Unless we alter the conditions in our cities, rid ourselves of our dirty habits and have improved latrines, Swaraj can have no value for us". The Jaga Mission in providing land rights to slum dwellers in Odisha and ensuring their access to water, electricity, education and health facilities fulfils the vision of Gandhi who envisioned Swaraj from many perspectives including the perspective of improved, better and healthy urban planning.
.The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity.