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Homeless hold up torn tarpaulin

Malda, Aug. 27: Relief minister Hafiz Ahmed Sairani’s announcement of a Rs 3-crore package for the rehabilitation of the erosion-affected families did little to pacify Panchanandapur and Manikchak residents.

Clamouring to make their grievances heard, Manikchak residents surrounded the minister during his visit today, showing him the torn tarpaulins that had been distributed among them to build makeshift shelters.

“I will take necessary action once I get back to Calcutta,” the minister said before leaving for Panchanandapur, where more than 5,000 families have been rendered homeless by the ravaging river.

Sairani had met district magistrate Ashok Bala, sabhadhipati Gautam Chakraborty and Congress MP A.B.A Ghani Khan Choudhury to discuss the details of the relief package before beginning his tour of the affected areas in the district. The minister expressed concern over the district administration “inaction” and said the damage would have been lesser if the authorities had “taken action in time”.

“The money has already been provided to the administration by the government. Now, it is up to you to prepare the list of families affected by erosion and ensure that they are relocated at the earliest,” he told the district magistrate.

The minister said the administration had been asked to use Rs 1.5 crore of the relief money to acquire 81 acres of land at Kagmari in Kaliachak II for relocating the displaced families.

“I will speak to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee when I return to Calcutta and ask him to visit Malda so that he can see for himself that the families of Panchanandapur have been relocated,” the minister said.

“I would have visited Malda earlier, but the chief minister asked me not to go empty handed. The government order to provide relief was passed yesterday and I have wasted no time in arriving here with the good news,” he added.

The minister said the funds released by the Centre for relief work in the event of natural calamities could not be used for any other purpose, “not even for purposes that would reduce the loss of life and property in future”.

“We are helpless because of the rules laid down by the Centre. We have urged the authorities concerned to make exceptions but to no avail,” Sairani said, adding that the Centre has sanctioned Rs 117 crore to the state for relief operation for the current fiscal.

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