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Hungry tide swallows Assam school

Dhemaji, June 11: Largescale erosion by the Brahmaputra at Singajan-Balijan in Dhemaji district has washed away several hectares of farmland and rendered about 1,200 families of two adjacent villages homeless. Just hours ago, the Singajan-Balijan lower primary school was lost to the river.

Residents here say a 4-km stretch of the 17-km pucca road constructed under PMGSY from Dimow to the school was eaten away by the river in a month’s time.

“The school was about 4km from the river. We had 200 students in our school and they have not been able to attend classes for over two months now,” Abhijit Mandal, the headmaster, told this correspondent.

The villages, Singajan and Balijan on the north bank of the Brahmaputra, are about 60km from Dhemaji town and 490km from Guwahati.

Incessant rainfall over the past weeks has increased the level of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries, threatening the existence of the embankment on the north bank, a few kilometres downstream of Bogibeel bridge at Pumi village under Sissi-Tongani gaon panchayat of Sissiborgoan circle in Dhemaji district. Sources here say if the dyke is left unprotected, a major part of Dhemaji district and Dhakuakhana in Lakhimpur district would be affected.

When this correspondent contacted Sissiborgaon circle office, only 40km away, the authorities were in the dark about the damage caused to several hectares of farmland and property.

Sissiborgaon circle officer Ranjit Konwar said recently that neither the villagers nor the village headman (gaon burah) have informed him that several hectares of arable land had been washed away or about the school. “I will send an official to take stock of the situation,” he said. The affected area falls under Jonai Assembly constituency.

Asked about the problems faced by the villagers, Jonai MLA Pradhan Baruah said funds to the tune of Rs 25 crore had been sanctioned but because of the elections and rain, work was not been executed. “But it will commence. Steps will soon be taken for rehabilitation of the affected villagers,” Baruah said.

Only about 25 households remain in the villages. Already 1,200 families have moved out of their homes seeking shelter at safer places.

“Our village was about 2km away from the dyke adjacent to the river a month back. Now, we can see danger staring from our house which is why we have decided to leave the place,” Surajit Mandal, a 40-year-old farmer of Balijan, told this correspondent as he left his home with bag and baggage on a horse-driven cart.

Not many have a choice now but to move to safer places. “Most villages under Simenmukh panchayat will be affected if the administration does not take preventive measures at the earliest,” a villager said.