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Flood shelter stalled for want of land

- District officials seek panchayat route to get plot in Mayachar

Tamluk, Jan. 5: Work to construct a flood shelter can’t be taken up in East Midnapore’s Mahishadal though the state government sanctioned Rs 25 lakh in November last year because land is not immediately available.

A district official said Rs 50 lakh would be required to build the flood shelter on 0.3 acre, of which Rs 25 lakh has been sanctioned.

“The government does not own 0.3 acres in one place in the Mayachar area of Mahishadal where the flood shelter is supposed to come up. Immediately, we don’t want to go into any acquisition because it involves some risks. We have requested the panchayat samiti to identify and arrange for the land. We are waiting for it,” said Sagar Sinha, the additional district magistrate who is in charge of disaster management.

A district official explained that land acquisition is such a sensitive issue that the administration would consider it only as the last resort.

Mayachar is an island in the Rupnarayan river and home to about 10,000 people.

“Every year during monsoon, large parts of the island are flooded and a flood shelter is required. The government sanctioned funds for the flood shelter as per our request. We have already received 50 per cent of the fund. But an arrangement has to be made for the land. We don’t want to go into land acquisition,” a district official said.

Mayachar is about 20km from Nandigram, where the Trinamul Congress had led an anti-land acquisition movement against the then ruling Left Front government in 2007.

Raghunath Ponda, a functionary of the Trinamul-led Mahishadal panchayat samiti, said they had appealed to the villagers to either donate land for the purpose or sell it to the rural body at a minimum price.

“We have already arranged 0.1 acre that belongs to Mayachar High School. We need another 0.2 acre and for that, we need help from villagers,” said Raghunath, who is a local Trinamul leader.

Raghunath said that once the three-storey flood shelter is built, it can also be used as an ICDS centre, community centre or for health camps when there is no flood. “We have already spoken to some villagers and one of them has agreed to donate 0.1 acre while another has agreed to sell a 0.1 acre plot for Rs 1 lakh. We are speaking to more villagers for land,” said Raghunath.

Headmaster of Mayachar High School, Arun Kumar Maity, said the shelter would help Mayachar as flooding of parts of the island was an annual affair. “We have agreed to part with 0.1 acre. It is important for us to get land from the villagers too. The land also should be contiguous to the school. Otherwise, it will not be possible to build the shelter.”