THE Students’ Federation of India (SFI) West Bengal State Committee has expressed deep concern at the destruction of life and property in the recent Phailin cyclone and the subsequent floods that swept the entire South Bengal, and parts of North Bengal.
The SFI states that the task now is not just of relief, reconstruction and resettlement. The damages to livelihood are immense and efforts are required to generate confidence among the people and ensure minimum livelihood security, as well as take adequate steps to prevent such catastrophes in years to come.
Numerous blocks of Bankura, Burdwan, Hooghly, Howrah, Purba Medinipur, Paschim Medinipur have been badly affected by the flooding Damodar, Rupnarayan, Gandheshwari, Kansabati, Subarnarekha and their tributaries. Several state and national highways have been completely inundated following the untimely torrential rains, and heavy discharge of river water from the reservoirs. With the sources of water such as the wells, tube wells, taps under the water, acute scarcity of drinking water have occurred. Contamination of the drinking water sources have also led to diseases such as diarrhoea. Ghatal, Danton, Sobong of Paschim Medinipur; Khanakul, Arambag-I, Arambag-II blocks of Hooghly; Udainarayanpur, Amta of Howrah have been inundated.
80 blocks were affected, 17 people died in 5 districts, over 83000 hectares of crops destroyed and 71000 makeshift and permanent houses damaged in the calamity, caused by days of very heavy rainfall due to cyclone Phailin and water released into rivers by the reservoirs in Jharkhand. The State Government’s, however in spite of gimmicks, failed miserably in the distribution of the relief funds was “partisan” and “inadequate”. The price of the edibles skyrocketed in the affected areas as the authorities paid no attention to control blackmarketing of relief.
Though the State Government and the DVC have played the blame game, yet experts have opined that the buck should stop at the door of the Government as it had turned a Nelson’s eye to issues like de-silting the Durgapur Barrage which could have greatly enhanced its retaining capacity, thus it would have resulted in lesser discharge of the river water. Lack of maintenance has also reduced the storage capacity of the barrage. Chief Minister had charged the DVC and Jharkhand government with frequent discharge of water, which was flooding vast tracts of her State, adding that this was being done without adequate notice. This is also an untrue statement, as a day’s notice is given by the DVC and there is a 48-hour gap between the notice and the water actually reaching the flood-prone areas in Bengal.
To reduce the proportions of loss in years to come, the SFI demand that the Government must ensure that proper measures are taken to renovate and desilt the reservoir at Durgapur Barrage, desiltation of the network of irrigation and navigation canals and rivers, and regular and scientific maintenance of various obstructions on the rivers which guard the alluvial flood plains of the South Bengal.
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