Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has expressed concern over the delay in the rehabilitation of thousands of residents of Raniganj coal fields and slammed the Centre for allegedly being lackadaisical in extending help to shift those people.
According to her, in Raniganj of West Burdwan district, thousands of people are living in areas where subsidence of land occurred because of coal mining. Hundreds of houses, schools and other buildings have developed cracks and many residents are living in perilous structures.
“We are struggling for 10 years now so that the Centre allots funds for the rehabilitation of the affected families. There is always the risk of a cave-in and landslip as the ground has turned hollow because of mining. If it happens, around 30,000 people will be affected. We have taken some initiative from our side but there is no response from the central government,” Mamata told newspersons at the Calcutta airport before leaving for Alipurduar on a three-day visit.
Mamata, while speaking about the crisis that is looming over Joshimath in Uttarakhand where houses developed cracks because of subsidence, said the governments should stand by the affected residents.
“Coal India Limited is a central organization and we have provided land to ECL (Eastern Coalfields Limited that functions under Coal India) for the rehabilitation. If proper steps are not taken immediately, there might be similar consequences to Joshimath. People there were not at fault and the government should stand with them during this disaster,” the chief minister added.
BJP leaders, however, said the crisis in Raniganj was because of illegal coal mining. “The state government has a major responsibility to prevent such illegal practices. The chief minister cannot pass the buck to the Centre,” said a BJP functionary.
Mamata, while speaking on the issue, hinted that in the hilly areas of Bengal — Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, and Mirik — some illegal constructions have come up.
“These buildings came up before our tenure. There was no system then...,” said Mamata.
Over the past few months, the issue of the construction of multi-storied buildings had gained ground in the political arena of hills. A number of political parties have mentioned that the mushrooming of buildings should be controlled in places like Darjeeling to prevent any major disaster in the future, especially because the region is in an earthquake-prone zone.
In fact, Hamro Party, which has recently lost the Darjeeling civic board to Anit Thapa’s Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha, had initiated a demolition drive to remove illegal constructions. Also, Thapa has asserted that they would strictly adhere to the building rules while passing building plans at the civic body.
“The chief minister’s assertion indicates that she is aware of the issue. Now that Trinamul is in alliance with BGPM at the civic body, steps should be taken in this regard to keep the hill residents safe,” said a veteran in hill politics.
Mamata, who landed at Hasimara Air Force station ofAlipurduar in the afternoon with Trinamul MP Abhishek Banerjee, reached Subhasinitea estate that is nearby.
After some time, she left for Malangi, a forest lodge. Tomorrow, she is scheduled to fly to Meghalaya to speak at a public meeting.
Additional reporting by Anirban Choudhury in Alipurduar