Mamata gestures as a flood victim lifts a sack full of relief materials in Gopiballavpur. Picture by Amit Datta
Satra, (West Midnapore), Oct. 16: Mamata Banerjee reached flood-affected West Midnapore this afternoon with relief materials such as utensils, molasses and flattened rice, but residents waiting for over two hours had a much longer wishlist for the chief minister.
Those putting up at a relief camp at Babdumaro High School demanded proper roads, a hospital with doctors, a refurbished bridge and concrete embankments along the winding Subarnarekha.
Mamata patiently listened to the 200-odd people in Babdumaro, a village bordering Odisha.
“These people have lost their homes and their crop in the flood…. But instead of relief, they want development, which captures the degree of deprivation,” an official who was part of the chief minister’s entourage said.
Most of the people at the relief camp and those who had gathered to see the chief minister were from the flood-affected villages of Babdumaro, Satra, Songru, Makri, Sorboni, Chuagara and Boromania in Gopiballavpur.
Gopiballavpur is one of the blocks worst affected by the flood caused by Cyclone Phailin-triggered rain and discharge of water from dams in neighbouring Jharkhand.
The only access to the interiors of these villages are winding kuchha roads that cut through swathes of paddy fields with an occasional electric pole jutting out. Electricity has reached the area but not many have legal access to it. Thatched huts by the roads are all made of mud and bamboos and the general mode of transportation is the bicycle.
Reaching the area from district headquarters Jhargram is a backbreaking experience because of huge craters.
“For decades, there has been no all-round development here,” rued Sirshendu Nayek, a contract farmer from Songru village.
The flood has caused cracks in Nayek’s mud house and he is in dire need of a proper shelter.
Flanked by Trinamul MP Mukul Roy and minister and local MLA Sukumar Hansda, Mamata promised a grant of Rs 15,000 each for those who have lost their homes.
Nayek, however, said he was not sure if the government dole would ever reach him. “Political parties have come and gone but nothing much has happened here…. We have got nothing. There is no proper road, health care and drainage,” he said.
Pushed to the brink, many like Nayek poured out their tales of deprivation before the chief minister.
“Didi, amader ekta hospital chai (Didi, we want a hospital),” farmer Bharat Poira shouted from the crowd. But his voice got lost in the din.
Most villagers from this island of neglect have to go to Baripada in Odisha, 10km away, for treatment.
“There is a health unit in Satra but there aren’t any facilities. It has been this way for decades,” Poira told this correspondent later.
The cluster of villages was a Maoist hotbed till the Mamata government cracked down on the rebels. Guerrilla leader Kishan was killed in an encounter in November 2011.
Life has returned to normal in some of these villages since the change of guard at Writers’ but the people are yet to taste development.
During her 35-minute stay, Mamata focussed on providing relief for the time being. “I know how difficult it has been for all of you since the waters gushed in,” she said.
“I know where it hurts the most when crops are destroyed. We will talk to banks to see if those with kisan credit cards can be given some relief,” the chief minister said before instructing block development officers to draw up a list of people eligible for compensation.