The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Padma gobbles panchayat

Charkuthibari (Murshidabad), April 9: The raging Padma coursing through the district has swept Charkuthibari panchayat out of existence.

“About 15 villages in the Charkuthibari panchayat area have disappeared due to the changing path of the river. We have estimated that some of the voters in these villages are living in newly-formed mudflats across the river while the rest have migrated to other areas,” said Prasanta Kumar Das, the block development officer (BDO) of Bhagabangola II.

During the last voters’ list revision, only 734 of the 3,437 voters were found living in the areas that remained of the panchayat. “With so few voters, we decided that they will cast their votes in neighbouring Akhrigunj panchayat,” Das said. The number of gram panchayats in Murshidabad has come down to 254 and the district has also lost three panchayat samity seats.

The river eats away large chunks of land every time it changes course, particularly after the rainy season. Lakshminarayanpur, Beraphatan, Sotapur, Patiban and Daulatpur villagers have gone under water.

On the other hand, mudflats, like Madanerpara and Rajapur, have appeared where some people have settled down.

Murshidabad district magistrate Manoj Panth said an additional district magistrate conducted a survey before it was decided that the Charkuthibari panchayat would be done away with. “The matter was published in the gazette in January and the state election commission and the panchayats department have ratified the move,” Panth said.

The CPM stands to lose out to nature’s vagaries. “It was in the last elections in 1998 that the gram panchayat had 3,437 voters and all six members were from the CPM,” said Gurupada Mondol, one of the members of the abolished panchayat.

Mondol smells foul play. “There are about 700 to 800 voters whose names have been excluded from the list and over a thousand voters who still live in the Charkuthibari area have been shown as residents of the Akhrigunj area,” he charged.

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