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regular-article-logo Thursday, 22 February 2024

In 24 hours, Ganga gobbles up 70 Malda homes rendering families homeless in Ratua-I block

Families sit under open sky, Trinamul accuses BJP-ruled Centre of apathy toward curbing erosion

Soumya De Sarkar Malda Published 07.09.23, 06:24 AM
Labourers carry out emergency work to check the erosion of the riverbank inRatua 1 block of Malda district on Wednesday

Labourers carry out emergency work to check the erosion of the riverbank inRatua 1 block of Malda district on Wednesday

The problem of erosion caused by the Ganga in Malda assumed devastating proportions in the last 24 hours, rendering 70 families homeless in Ratua-I block of the district.

As the river gobbled up houses and adjoining land of these families, ruling Trinamul leaders raised questions over the failure of the Narendra Modi government in addressing the issue of Ganga erosion, which has become a major problem in Malda and Murshidabad, the districts on the left and the right banks of the mighty river.

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Residents like Ananda Mandal, Manindranath Mandal, Pabitra Mandal, Archana Mandal and other habitants of localities like Kantotola, Mahanandatola and the neighbouring areas, said that since Tuesday afternoon, erosion turned acute in their localities.

“Yesterday (Tuesday), 52 houses were swept away while another 20-odd houses were gobbled up by the river on Wednesday. We are living under the open sky now,” said Pabitra Mandal, a septuagenarian woman of Mahanandatola.

On Tuesday, while both of her sons were away at work, she was dismayed to find that the Ganga had reached her doorstep.

“I called them and they reached home hurriedly. We could shift only a few household items. The rest were taken away by the Ganga, along with our house,” said the old woman, crying profusely.

Archana Mandal, another erosion victim, said they had a house even on Tuesday but on Wednesday they were homeless.

“My five-year-old grandson was asking me where our house had gone. I could not explain to him the tragedy that has befallen us,” she said.

Manindranath Mandal, who has also lost his home, was enraged.

“Whenever such a disaster hits, Trinamul leaders accuse the Centre while the BJP leaders remain mute. We are clueless about our future and want a permanent solution,” he said.

According to the locals, among those who have lost their homes in the past 24 hours, include some people whose houses got swept away for the second time.

“Earlier, some erosion victims had built new houses in plots located nearby. But as the Ganga keeps on eroding land, there are people who lost their houses for the second time,” said a villager.

District Trinamul leaders, who visited the affected areas today, had to face the ire of the erosion victims even as the state irrigation department engaged workers to carry out temporary anti-erosion work on an emergency basis.

The leaders pointed out that despite chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s repeated reminders to the Centre that the issue should be considered a national disaster and funds should be provided to address erosion, no step has been taken by the central government.

“She has sent a number of letters to the Prime Minister on the gravity of the situation. She has said that a joint study should be conducted and appropriate plans drawn up to stop erosion so that people don’t lose their land and homes. But the Centre is apathetic,” said Abdur Rahim Boxi, the Malda district Trinamul president and an MLA of the party.

In May this year, Mamata, while visiting Malda and Murshidabad, announced an allocation of Rs 100 crore for anti-erosion works.

“The river has been eroding land on both its banks for decades now.... It is a national issue. However, the Centre has not paid a penny even though it was supposed to pay Rs 700 crores to our state (for this purpose). The Farakka Barrage Project Authority does nothing to check erosion,” Mamata had said.

In one of her letters to Modi in 2022, she said that in the past 15 years, around 2,800 hectares of fertile land have been engulfed by the river. Also, there had been damage to public and private properties to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore during this period.

In Malda, around four blocks, where most residents are of the minority community, are facing the brunt of erosion. Similar is the situation in 10 blocks of Murshidabad.

Malda and Murshidabad have 34 Assembly seats of which Trinamul won 28 in the 2021 polls.

Earlier, in 2019, Trinamul bagged two of five Lok Sabha seats in these districts. The Congress won two and the BJP one.

Samar Mukherjee, the Trinamul MLA of Ratua who had to face peoples’ wrath on Wednesday, accused the BJP of “playing politics”.

“The party (BJP) knows it can’t do much in Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in these two districts. That is why the BJP is playing politics with these hapless people. If the Centre doesn’t take immediate steps, we will be forced to launch an extensive movement,” said Mukherjee.

The Ganga, he said, is flowing only 200 metres away from his house.

“People in some areas of Bihar and Jharkhand are also facing erosion. As these states also have non-BJP governments, the Centre is not granting funds for a permanent solution,” he added.

BJP leaders claimed no concrete proposal to check erosion reached the Centre from the Bengal government. “I want to ask Trinamul leaders if the state has placed any definite anti-erosion work plan to the Centre. The Centre is ready to act but the state has to take the initiative,” said Khagen Murmu, the BJP MP of Malda North.

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