The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Orchard home for homeless

Malda, Aug. 24: The Ganga has gobbled up whatever they had: their land, property and their homes. They live under the sheltering sky, sustaining on sattu and guavas. They are the hapless residents of what was once a hamlet called Kasturi, which has been washed away by the marauding river.

The erosion orphans have taken shelter in a mango orchard, 500 m from the Ganga. Giridhari Chowdhury, 56, said: “Jackals disturb us a lot in the night. We are worried as the animals target our children. We don’t have any tarpaulin sheets for making a makeshift home.”

Chowdhury is staying in the mango orchard along with his wife, two sons and their children. Two years ago, he lost four bighas in a similar erosion. “Now I have lost my farming land as well. All that I have left is an orchard, which grows guava and mangoes. I am feeding the children guavas. There’s no work and there’s no way I can sell off this orchard for the simple reason that there’s no buyer. The Ganga has come within 500 m of the garden. Last Sunday, the river broke an embankment and took away whatever we had,” says Chowdhury.

Like Chowdhury, his fellow residents Basudeb Chowdhury and Shankar Chowdhury have also become refugees whose homes in Jotdasturi villages were washed away.

The homeless people of Panchanandapur are miffed with the administration for its “indifferent” attitude.

“The finance minister came here and announced a whole lot of things. He said we will get a month’s ration, drinking water, medicines and tarpaulin sheets. But we have got nothing. We are going to the block headquarters and coming back. How long can we go on like this'” asked Shankar Chowdhury.

Ganga Anti-erosion Committee leader Tarikhuddin Islam said the tarpaulins distributed were of poor quality. “Only 6 kg of rice and wheat have been distributed to some families per village. What can we do with such a small sum'” he asked.

Malda district magistrate Ashok Bala said: “We have already distributed 50 tonnes of rice and wheat. We are sending another 50 tonnes.”

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