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Poll code hinders storm relief effort

Agartala, April 29: The poll code of conduct has come in the way of relief for storm-affected people in Kanchanpur subdivision of North Tripura.

Last night, a severe thundersquall, punctuated by heavy rain, injured nine persons, besides triggering near-total disruption of power supply and telephone connectivity. The affected areas include Satnala, Shuknacherra, Jayasri, Shantipur and Rabindra Nagar.

But the imposition of electoral code of conduct continued to affect normal administrative activities, including relief operations for people affected by natural disasters.

The Lok Sabha election to Tripura’s two seats took place on April 7 and 12 but since the poll process is not over in the rest of thecountry, the code of conduct remains operational and governmental activities continue to be affected.

Recently, the state government completed the reconstruction of Rabindra Shatavarshiki Bhawan at a cost of Rs 3.5 crore in the heart of Agartala but the public auditorium cannot be formally inaugurated because the code of conduct is still in place.

State information minister Bhanulal Saha said the state government had sought the poll panel’s permission to inaugurate the auditorium on May 9, the birth anniversary of Rabindra Nath Tagore.

“The commission has given us permission with the instruction that the programme should be low-key and no political comment should be made in speeches,” said Saha.

Kanchanpur subdivisional magistrate Dilip Chakma said according to a primary estimate, 399 thatched and mud-walled houses collapsed in the storm last night that lasted for two hours between 8pm and 10pm.

He said no estimate had been made of the damage to electric poles, telephone posts and the water supply infrastructure.

“We are trying to cope with the situation but what impedes our relief efforts is the electoral code of conduct; as long as it is in force we cannot provide cash relief to the affected even though it is badly needed now. We need to have clear permission from the commission to initiate relief on a large scale,” said Chakma.

Senior INPT leader from Kanchanpur, Debnath Reang, said the situation in various parts of the small town and its outlying areas was “critical”.

“Power supply and connectivity have totally collapsed, affecting supply of water by pipelines and more than 500 houses have collapsed and their inmates have nothing to eat because relief is not being distributed,” said Reang.

The district magistrate of North Tripura, Rathode Sandip Rewaji, had been informed about the situation. “We are hoping that he, in consultation with chief electoral officer Ashutosh Jindal, will be able to obtain the commission’s permission for largescale relief operations that are urgently needed,” said Reang.