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Misery fires will to sit for tests
- Shantytown rummages in rubble for charred dreams

Pappu Singh was busy studying for his Higher Secondary (HS) exams on Sunday evening when he heard screams of “aagun, aagun”.

He rushed out of the shanty in Uttar Panchannagram, off the Bypass, with his mother and sister, and watched in horror as their tiny home was engulfed in flames. Everything was reduced to ashes — including Pappu’s precious HS books.

But the 19-year-old student of Tiljala High School — who got a first division in Madhyamik — was back to his books on Monday afternoon.

“All my books were burnt in the blaze, but the local Banga Bani Sangha Club has arranged for some and I will definitely sit for my exams from Tuesday,” Pappu told Metro on Monday afternoon.

Shampa Biswas, another HS candidate, saved her books from the blaze but lost her admit card. “By the time the fire reached our shanty, I was able to shift all my books to a concrete room we have nearby. But I cannot find my admit card,” cried the student of Tiljala Balika Vidyalaya.

Pappu and Shampa were just two among the 2,000 residents of the Tiljala slum who were rummaging through the rubble and picking up the pieces of their world that went up in flames on Sunday evening.

The blaze diagonally behind the Sanjha Chulha dhaba off the Bypass razed more than 750 shanties within hours.

The actual cause of the fire that raged for three hours, before 25 fire-tenders managed to douse the flames, was still not clear as the forensic reports had not come in.

The day after, Uttar Panchannagram resembled a zone of slush, with burnt bamboos standing tall. Hundreds waded for hours in their desperation to salvage something from the slush.

“Less than 30 years ago, this used to be a pond. Then people started filling it up with mud and rubbish to make shanties. The reason the fire spread so fast was because most of the shanties were made of bamboo,” said Pradip Nashkar, a victim of the blaze.

Relief work was under way, with the homeless being put up in local clubs, schools and makeshift camps. More than 100 families have taken shelter at Banga Bani Sangha Club.

“We have been working non-stop from last night. We are arranging for meals for all those who have taken shelter in our club. We are also distributing saris and lungis,” said club secretary Gautam Karmakar.

“Special arrangements have been made for Shampa and Pappu, who will be given all the support they need to sit for their HS exams,” he added.

Over 100 families have taken shelter in Miloni Club and BR Ambedkar School nearby.

The issue of rehabilitation was raised in the Assembly on Monday by Partha Chattopadhyay of the Trinamul Congress and Congress MLA Manas Bhuiyan.

At Tiljala, murmurs of a man-made fire and a shady land deal were doing the rounds on Monday. “The price of land here has reached Rs 1 crore per cottah. So, there is a strong possibility of sabotage,” alleged Trinamul MLA Javed Khan.

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