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regular-article-logo Friday, 14 June 2024

Midya's home intact after cyclone Remal, but his worry remains as rural housing eludes beneficiaries

With the Trinamool Congress accusing the Narendra Modi government of suspending the release of funds for the housing scheme, people like Midya, Mondal or Molla seem to have little interest in it

Anshuman Phadikar, Subhasish Chaudhuri Tamluk/Calcutta Published 28.05.24, 10:41 AM
Diganta Midya’s double-storeyed thatched house at Khejuri in East Midnapore.

Diganta Midya’s double-storeyed thatched house at Khejuri in East Midnapore. Picture by Kanishka Maity

Diganta Midya of Khejuri in East Midnapore district was happy — and surprised also — to see that his thatched double-storeyed mud house was intact after Cyclone Remal’s landfall.

The migrant labourer had returned from Kerala to cast his vote last week.

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He remained anxious as Remal made landfall and started to blow strong.

On Sunday evening, officials of the local administration forced Midya and his family members to vacate the home at Laxman Chak and move to a school building to spend the night. He left home with a fear that he might not see his home the way it was when he returned.

But on Monday morning, the 40-year-old was happy to see that his home had survived Remal’s rage. The house suffered damage to the roof but it was minimal compared to May 2020 when Cyclone Amphan flattened his home to the ground.

“We have been living on the edge with unending fear. Every year, with the onset of the monsoon, the fear grips us. I don’t know when this fear of losing everything would end,” said Midya, who works as a gardener at a cardamom orchard in Kerala.

Living merely within 400 metres of the sea, Midya thought a pucca residence could have helped him get rid of the anxiety. He appealed for an allotment under the rural housing scheme. But he was not lucky to find his name among those of the beneficiaries of the government’s housing scheme.

“Amphan had brought down my home four years ago. But this time, Remal spared me with little damage to the roof. But I don’t know what is awaiting me next year. There would be a similar threat of cyclone and I might not be lucky again,” Midya said.

Peekon Mondal, 35, a tricycle van peddler from Gangri village of Nandigram, shared Midya’s luck. He was happy to see his kutchha house standing on the Hooghly bank with minor damage on the roof. Four years ago, Amphan had blown away his house.

Shaokat Molla, a resident of Uttar Laukhali in Sandeshkhali, North 24-Parganas, was thanking the almighty for the minor damage caused to his home. A far cry from what happened when Amphan took away his home and he had to spend around two months at a rescue centre.

Not just these three individuals, there were several others living along the Bengal coast, who on Monday morning felt lucky as Remal passed over causing little damage. With the devastation caused by Amphan still fresh in their memory, these people were staring at life without homes one more time.

Bengal has a few lakh people living close to the vulnerable coastal line spanning over three districts — East Midnapore, South 24-Parganas and a part of North 24-Parganas. Dealing with the threat of cyclones has become an annual feature.

Mondal and Molla echoed Midya’s concern. The two had also applied for allotment under the rural housing scheme but their names were not included in the list of beneficiaries.

Molla, a farm labourer in his 50s, said: “I don’t know how to qualify as a beneficiary under the housing scheme…. I appealed thrice and got rejected every time.”

“Amphan had blown away my house…. Remal made little impact. But the fear
remains. A pucca house could have helped me overcome the threat permanently,” he said.

With the Trinamool Congress accusing the Narendra Modi government of suspending the release of funds for the housing scheme, people like Midya, Mondal or Molla seem to have little interest in it.

“I don’t know whose fault it is.… I only feel that a pucca house can help many like me get rid of the tension permanently,” Midya said.

A member of the South 24-Parganas zilla parishad said: “In the past few years, it was our priority to ensure that people living close to the coast are covered under the housing scheme. But many remained left out because of technical reasons. I hope things will be changed and such vulnerable people will benefit in the coming years.”

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