The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sops and relief as dry spell spreads

Aug. 22: The four Forward Bloc ministers, who arrived in Dinhata this evening to survey the drought-hit areas of Cooch Behar, could not see much because of the lack of light.

The ministerial team comprising agriculture minister Naren De, food minister Paresh Adhikary, relief minister Murtaza Hossain and cooperative minister Rabindranath Ghosh arrived at Baniadaha village near Dinhata at 6.30 pm. A great number of Bloc supporters had gathered at the village to voice their grievances.

“We are sorry that we are late, but we are not to blame for the delay. Our flight from Calcutta to Bagdogra was late by over two hours,” De said.

He said deep and shallow tube-wells would soon be provided in the dry areas. “Please cooperate with the district administration. We are going to distribute mustard and corn seeds so that poor farmers can make up for the loss of the paddy crop, which could not be sown in most places because of the long dry spell,” De said.

Tomorrow the four ministers will tour parts of the Sitai block in the district. The fact that the ministers seem to have restricted their survey to Sitai and Dinhata — the two constituencies that the party lost in the last Assembly elections — has not gone down well with the Opposition. “The entire district is hit and these ministers chose to visit Dinhata and Sitai only. We believe the visit is politically motivated,” said Rabindranath Ghosh, the district president of the Trinamul Congress.

Bowing to pressure from all political parties, the South Dinajpur administration today declared drought in 1635 of the 1,646 mouzas in the district. District magistrate Sarfaraz Ahmed told reporters this afternoon that crops worth over Rs 142 crore have been damaged. District planning officer Pratim Ghosh Dastidar said free minikits will be distributed among farmers. He added that the Rs 6 crore sanctioned by the government to fight the drought situation is being spent to boost the irrigation system.

In North Dinajpur, residents of Karandighi and Hemtabad are fuming over the district administration’s denial to include the two blocks in the drought map.

Malda district magistrate Chittarajan Das said drought was prevailing in 1137 of the 1814 mouzas of the district. Crops worth Rs 108 crore have been lost. The state government has sanctioned Rs 5 crore to fight the situation.

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