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Political bias finger in Amphan relief

Beneficiaries are yet to receive Rs 20,000 as compensation from the state
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee waves at the villagers during her meeting for Cyclone Amphan

Anshuman Phadikar   |   Nandigram(Bengal)   |   Published 03.06.20, 11:25 PM

A group of 50 villagers on Wednesday accused panchayat members owing allegiance to the Trinamul Congress in East Midnapore’s Nandigram of political favouritism in drawing up a list of those eligible for government compensation after losing homes in cyclone Amphan.

Each beneficiary who lost his or her home to the Amphan is set to receive Rs 20,000 as compensation from the state.

Angry villagers from various parts of Nandigram went to the BDO’s office demanding a probe into the lists made by Sonachura panchayat. They alleged that panchayat workers did not heed the “real measure” of losses and instead listed people who supported the Trinamul.

Among the protesters was Nirmal Das, 65, an MGNREGA labourer who said he was jobless since early March. On May 20, more than 2,000 tiles of the roof of his brick home, where he lives with his wife, younger son and daughter-in-law, were blown away, leaving him with losses exceeding Rs 20,000, he added.

“I managed to patch up the gap with sacks and cloth, but it has been raining since the cyclone, and sacks are no good. Officials have not even given me a tarpaulin,” Das said on Wednesday, adding that his paddy crop was spoilt in the cyclone.

“The panchayat did not include my name on the list of beneficiaries forwarded to block officials. Block officials did not even register our deputation,” he alleged.

Allegations of bias in relief measures, coming from one of the worst-hit parts of the district, evoked a strong response from the Trinamul leadership, with MP Sisir Adhikari insisting that party workers “politicising” the issue would be “dealt with sternly”.

“Our chief minister has made it clear that there can be no politics over compensation. I will look into Nandigram and launch an inquiry,” he said, adding that people could go to any block, SDO or district magistrate’s office with complaints of malpractice in relief efforts.

Subrata Mullick, BDO (Nandigram-I), said that he had not turned villagers away. “All I said was that panchayat workers would be able to help them quickly,” he said. “If panchayat workers fail or refuse to help them, then people are supposed to come to us.”

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