Four persons, including a child, were killed as mud walls, weakened by steady rain in four south Bengal districts, collapsed within a day of three children in Bankura’s Bishnupur dying in a similar accident.
The kin of all four victims said the deaths could have been averted had they been able to build durable homes using central funds for rural housing.
Trinamul national general-secretary Abhishek Banerjee placed the blame squarely on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union rural development minister Giriraj Singh for putting central funds on hold.
On Saturday night, Shyamapada Nayak, 60, of Jamboni in Jhargram was killed when he was having dinner as a portion of a wall of his mud house fell on him. Police said he was critically injured and died on way to the hospital. In nearly identical incidents, early on Sunday, Purabi Hansda, 68, of Bankura’s Chhatna, and Nitya Sahish, 3, in Purulia’s Kenda, were killed in their sleep as mud wall fell on them.
Later in the day, in Labhpur of Birbhum, Tamal Krishna Mondal, 78, was killed when a mud wall of his home that he was leaning against collapsed on him.
In all these cases, the victims' kin claimed the families were listed for the Centre’s rural housing scheme, but could not build concrete homes because of Delhi's funds freeze.
The deaths triggered a political debate between Trinamul and the BJP over the funds freeze.
Angry villagers at Hansapahari in Bankura's Chatna after the wall collapse killed Purabi Hansda. Picture by Rupesh Khan
A delegation led by Trinamul Rajya Sabha member Santanu Sen visited the homes of the victims in Bishnupur and Chhatna on Sunday. He brought four members from the bereaved families in Bishnupur — which had lost three children — to Calcutta to meet Abhishek, following which they agreed to join the Delhi protests.
“Yesterday (Saturday), a tragic incident took place in Bishnupur’s Boramara village where three innocent children lost their lives after the wall of their mud house collapsed on them while they were playing. Who is responsible for the death of these innocent children?” asked Abhishek at the Calcutta airport, before departing for Delhi.
“Four people from Boramara village are with me here today. Trinamul Congress lost both the Bishnupur Assembly constituency and the Lok Sabha constituency. Ask them if the state government has discriminated against the residents when it comes to welfare schemes,” he added.
He also mentioned the Chhatna and Labhpur incidents.
“Narendra Modi, Giriraj Singh, and the Bengal BJP leaders are responsible for these deaths. Bengal BJP leaders wrote letters asking the Centre to block Bengal’s funds. Today, they have blood on their hands,” he added. "An investigation should be conducted and everyone, including Giriraj Singh, should be arrested."
BJP state unit chief Sukanta Majumdar said funds were withheld on account of “malpractice” by Trinamul leaders and “misappropriation” by the Bengal government.
“They (Trinamul) are going to Delhi to stage a drama. Our party MP and MLAs are also going to Delhi to submit evidence of Trinamul's malpractice to Giriraj Singh,” he said.