The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Flood politics on centrestage

Sept. 15: As the Ganga flowed perilously close to the level it had touched during 1998 in Malda, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said the rapid erosion along the banks of the Ganga and Padma was threatening the power plant of the National Thermal Power Corporation and the Farakka barrage.

Pointing an accusing finger at the Centre, the chief minister said the BJP-led government did not pay heed to repeated warnings earlier.

The erosion has added to the woes of the people in Malda and adjoining Murshidabad, worsening the flood situation.

“I met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and deputy chairman of the Planning Commission K.C. Pant and told them that the erosion was a national problem but they do not realise it. It will take Rs 900 crore to stop the erosion. Farakka barrage is their baby and it is strange they don’t realise the dangerous situation,” Bhattacharjee said at Writers’ Buildings.

He said he was also in regular touch with the authorities in Malda and was issuing necessary instructions regarding relief and shelter. “There is, however, a ray of hope. We think the Ganga will not rise further as the water is receding in Patna,” he added.

In Behrampore, Forward Bloc chief and agriculture minister Kamal Guha criticised the Bhattacharjee government’s failure to draw the attention of Delhi to the severity of the situation and announced that his party would stall train services and central government offices in Malda and Murshidabad for an indefinite period from December 1 in protest against the Centre’s indifference towards the erosion.

“The government is sitting at Writers’ Buildings and looking at Delhi while erosion along the Ganga and Padma is gradually engulfing Malda and Murshidabad. The government should immediately launch an agitation against the Centre. Buddhababu is only holding dialogues with the Centre. Demands are not met without any movement and Forward Bloc will launch it. Buddhababu and others like him will not be able to do it,” said Guha.

Besides Malda, nine blocks and a municipality in Murshidabad have been flooded as the Ganga broke its banks, affecting 62,000 people.

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