Over 200 school students and women in Malda walked into a state highway of the district on Monday and raised a blockade, alleging apathy on the part of the state and central governments in curbing erosion.
Over the past few days, erosion caused by the Ganga has turned acute in Malda's Manikchak and Ratua-I blocks. The river, swollen in monsoon rains, is gobbling up chunks of land and houses in localities like Gopalpur, Keshartola and Kalutontola in Manikchak, and in Bilaimari and Mahanandatola of Ratua-I block.
On Monday, students of Gopalpur High School, along with their guardians, mostly mothers, blocked the Malda-Manikchak state highway at Budhia, a crossing in Milki under Englishbazar block.
Carrying placards in their hands, the students resorted to demonstration and said their school would be eroded by the Ganga very soon if effective steps were not taken to prevent it.
“A dyke has already collapsed at Gopalpur. Our school building is standing at a location from where the Ganga is less than 100 metres away. There is another embankment standing, and if it collapses, the river will engulf the school in no time. We find no other alternative but to launch protests,” said a Class X student.
Their school has around 750 students, he said.
Their guardians also said the state and the Centre were simply passing the buck without addressing the erosion crisis that affects thousands in Malda and the neighbouring Murshidabad district every year.
“Erosion has become a nightmare for us. Many families have lost their homes. However, the political parties and the state and central governments, instead of taking effective steps to help families like us, are busy tossing charges at each other,” said a woman who joined the protest.
The blockade commenced at 10.30am, halting traffic along the route.
A team from Englishbazar police station spoke with the agitators and finally persuaded them to withdraw their protest after around four hours.
Trinamul and BJP leaders, when contacted, blamed each other.
Amlan Bhaduri, the general secretary of Malda south (organisational) district of BJP, alleged that the Trinamul-ruled state government did not have any concrete plan to prevent or control erosion.
“Yet, they ask for central funds. People in affected blocks are fed up with the state irrigation department that carries out only temporary palliative work. The protest on Monday was spontaneous. If the state doesn’t act, the number of erosion victims will keep on rising in this district,” said Bhaduri.
Dulal Sarkar, a district vice-president of Trinamul retorted that local BJP leaders knew well that the Centre was not providing funds to Bengal to initiate any anti-erosion work.
“Even the Farakka Barrage Project Authority has also stopped carrying out this work. People are losing land and houses here while the BJP leaders are busy finding faults with the state government,” Sarkar said.