Boats ferry people through a flooded road and field in Ghatal town on Thursday. Picture by Samir Mondal
Ghatal, Oct. 17: Gopinath Pore, 50, of Ajabnagar village in West Midnapore’s Ghatal is “happy” that the area has been flooded thrice since August.
For Gopinath and about 100 other impoverished farm labourers, floods mean some extra money. The labourers own boats that they bring out during floods every year to ferry people through inundated roads and fields.
As Ghatal is a low-lying area, it gets flooded every year.
“Around 100 families in Ghatal wait for floods every year. We own one or two boats each. We ply them across flooded fields and roads to transport people. We earn between Rs 2,200 and Rs 4,000 a day, much more than the Rs 150 we get a day working as farm labourers,” said Gopinath, who owns a big country boat.
The sub-divisional officer (SDO) of Ghatal, Adip Roy, said even the administration hired the boats. “We have to depend on these boats during floods. This year, the area has been flooded thrice — twice in August and once in early October,” Roy said.
Around 70,000 people in Ghatal town and 300 villages in the neighbourhood have been inundated because of Cyclone Phailin-triggered rain and discharge of water from the Kangshabati barrage.
District officials said that during the floods, Ghatal gets cut off from the two state highways connecting the area with the district headquarters in Midnapore town.
Kartik Roy, 40, a labourer, said his boat was among the 11 the public works department (PWD) had hired this time.
“According to the contract, the PWD will pay me Rs 2,200 a day for ferrying passengers. I will neither be allowed to charge money from passengers nor ferry cycles and motorbikes,” Kartik said.
Those like Gopinath and Ganesh Bordoloi, 55, of Bisra village earn more than the likes of Kartik as they operate their boats themselves.
“As we have not been hired by any government department or agency, we are not tied down by rules. We are charging Rs 5 per person, Rs 5 for a cycle and Rs 30 for a motorcycle. We earn Rs 3,500 to Rs 4000 a day during floods. This year, we have earned more as the floods were severe and frequent,” Ganesh said.
Several thousands have to go to Ghatal town from the neighbouring villages every day for work as the subdivisional office, court, hospital, nursing homes, college and high schools are located there.
Ashoke Bera, a sub-assistant engineer in the irrigation department, has to cross the flooded state highway on a boat.
“Usually, I go to office from my home in Daspur, 10km away, on my motorcycle. But as the state highway is under water, I have to take a boat to office,” Bera said.
A medical representative from Chandrakona, Samad Ali, 35, said he had to visit Ghatal town and its neighbourhood frequently on his motorcycles to meet doctors.
“During floods, I have to depend on the privately operated boats,” he said.