The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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After storm, relief woes

Joypur (Bankura), April 21: The only factor in favour of the 25,000 people hit by Thursday’s tornado in the Joypur and Kotulpur blocks of Bankura is that there is no shortage of government personnel assigned to carry out relief work.

There will be no election for the gram panchayat, panchayat samiti and zilla parishad seats in Kotulpur, while only three seats of the 148 in Joypur are being contested.

“No employee has been given election duty as there is no need,” said Sadhin Saha, Joypur block relief officer. “They are involved in full-swing relief work in the affected villages.”

But manpower is the only relief that has been adequate so far. Though the local administration says measures are being taken, none of the 12 villages smothered by the twister has enough drinking water. With the scorching heat, villagers fear they will be forced to drink water from ponds as the wells and tubewells have been rendered inaccessible by the tornado.

“Eight to 10 new deep tubewells will have to be installed as soon as possible,” admitted Joypur block development officer Swapan Sen.

“Three water tankers have been sent from Bishnupur municipality but more are required. And the ponds will have to be restored…everything from trees to carcasses of livestock have been tossed into the ponds by the tornado.”

Voluntary organisations like the Bharat Sevasram Sangha are likely to step in. Not only for water but also to help in the arduous task of rebuilding the 2,000 homes in the 14 storm-tossed villages.

Worst-hit Bikrampur and Kulshayer villages have cracked ground floor walls, as the tornado ripped off the roofs and first floors. In Aima village, where the devastating twister first hit, only three concrete houses remain.

Officials are yet to ascertain the final figures of the losses from the panchayats. “But it can be said that what was built over the past 25 to 30 years by these villagers has all been lost,” Sen said.

“The government cannot give more than Rs 2,000 as assistance for each of the completely destroyed houses, and Rs 1,000 for the damaged homes. This is the rule,” said sub-divisional officer (Bishnupur) Kaushik Haldar. At Writers’ Buildings, a senior official in the relief department corroborated. “The next of kin of victims of natural calamities get Rs 20,000,” he said.

But the amount is a fraction of what is required to rebuild the homes. Villagers like Ashwini Satpathy and Pashupati Mondal are at a loss. “Where will we get the funds to build a roof over our heads'” they ask.

Had the villagers been insured against such calamities, the worries would have been far less. “But such schemes are a far cry for them, even after the sector opened up a few years back,” an official in the district said.

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