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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 16 July 2024

Malda: In poll season, offers pour for erosion orphans; their plight has become cornerstone of TMC's campaign

“The Centre has turned a blind eye to the distress of hundreds of families. It did nothing to check erosion in Malda and Murshidabad, said the chief minister has said while addressing public meetings in Malda

Soumya De Sarkar Malda Published 04.05.24, 06:28 AM
Trinamool Congress’s Shahnawaz Ali Raihan and (picture right) Congress’s Isha Khan Choudhury campaign in the Malda Dakshin parliamentary constituency.

Trinamool Congress’s Shahnawaz Ali Raihan and (picture right) Congress’s Isha Khan Choudhury campaign in the Malda Dakshin parliamentary constituency. PTI & Soumya De Sarkar

  • Ram Mandir: No
  • Lakshmir Bhandar: No
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  • Citizenship Amendment Act: No
  • Erosion: Yes

In Malda Dakshin, a Lok Sabha seat that comprises Assembly segments located on both banks of the Ganga, erosion caused by the mighty river has affected the lives of around one-and-half lakh people in the past 25 years. Their plight has become the cornerstone of the campaign of the ruling Trinamool Congress.

The TMC rank and file, including chief minister Mamata Banerjee, the party’s national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, and Shahnawaz Ali Raihan, the candidate from the constituency, are consistently flagging the erosion issue while trying to buttress the Narendra Modi government’s apathy to the erosion victims of Malda and Murshidabad.

“The Centre has turned a blind eye to the distress of hundreds of families. It did nothing to check erosion in Malda and Murshidabad. From the state’s side, we have provided funds and land to them,” the chief minister has said while addressing public meetings in Malda.

The Malda Dakshin (South) seat comprises five Assembly segments of Malda district, which are on the left bank of the Ganga, and Samserganj and Farakka Assembly segments, which are on the right bank, in Murshidabad.

Those associated with the citizens’ movement against erosion affirmed that the issue is an emotive one as thousands of people who have been displaced because the Ganga gobbled up their lands can easily relate to it.

The Ganga Bhangan Pratirodh Action Nagarik Committee, the largest organisation of erosion victims in Malda, says that in the last 25 years, around 70,000 people have lost their homes while around 15,000 acres of agricultural land have been devoured by the Ganga and other rivers which flow through Malda.

Party flags flutter from houses in Englishbazar area of Malda South Lok Sabha constituency.

Party flags flutter from houses in Englishbazar area of Malda South Lok Sabha constituency. Soumya De Sarkar

“In Murshidabad, particularly in places like Samserganj and Farakka, another equal number of people got displaced. Over 100 villages in these districts no longer exist on the map,” says Tarikul Islam, a convener of the committee.

Besides houses and land, 60 primary schools, 14 high schools, 250 temples and mosques, a couple of health centres and a sugar mill have been gobbled up by the Ganga since 1998.

Rishi Ghosh, a teacher and researcher who has been working on erosion for years, says the data proves the paramount impact of erosion on the lives of around one-and-half lakh people, most of them from minority communities.

“That is why TMC has picked up the issue to draw their support to win the seat which it has never won. It wants to beat Congress by securing the support of most of the Muslim voters as BJP is polarising votes,” says Ghosh.

The TMC has consistently highlighted erosion since it began its campaign.

“Hundreds of families have become homeless but not a penny came from the Centre for them so that they can build their houses. The Prime Minister has visited the district but has not uttered a single word about these people. Whatever was done has been done by the state. This is what we are telling the people,” says TMC candidate Raihan.

The campaign has prompted the Congress and the BJP camps to also take up the issue.

“Many families that have lost their homes and land now live in makeshift shanties beside the railway tracks and NH-12. The Centre has not done anything while the state has extended some doles to these people. During the UPA’s tenure, important initiatives were taken to address erosion and to rehabilitate the victims. All those have come to a halt,” says Isha Khan Choudhury, the Congress candidate.

Sreerupa Mitra Choudhu­ry, the BJP nominee, aware that the people are piqued with the Centre, is offering assurances. “It will be the first issue which I will raise in Parliament and take up with the Centre if I am elected,” she says.

  • Malda Dakshin votes on May 7
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