MALDA, 9 APRIL: The grievances of the villagers of storm hit areas of the district over distribution of relief materials continued even after 72 hours of the calamity. Irate villagers who had been rendered roofless blocked roads in at least three areas of north Malda. District administrations held an all party meeting regarding the relief today here.
This may be mentioned that a devastating hailstorm on 6 April night took away two lives and left at least 30000 roofless in Malda. The cultivation of mango, paddy, and wheat was badly damaged. Six blocks of the district - English Bazaar, Ratua-1, Chanchal Harishchandrapur-2, Manikchak and Old Malda were affected in the hailstorm.
Soon after the storm cry of the roofless people filled the air at the devastated areas. The primary shock soon turned into ire as they complained that there was ‘lack of promptness in providing relief.’ Shahjahan Sheikh of Pukhuria area alleged: “The quantity of the relief materials was too inadequate.” Social welfare minister Sabitri Mitra had to face agitation by the storm hit people in her own constituency MManikchak yesterday. The additional district magistrate – general (ADM-G) had to rush to Manikchak to take stock of the situation.
In Baharal area of Ratua I block roofless villagers blocked roads in two areas. The irate villagers alleged that the block administrations were ‘belittling the gravity of the loss.’ “We’re still living under open sky. We’ve not received Tarpaulin, food grains or anything. Hence, we have been compelled to block the road in empty stomach,” the villagers claimed.
Sabitri Mitra said: “Grievances are there in some areas but the district administrations have been trying their best to meet the demand of the storm hit people.” “Additional tarpaulins and other ingredients are being arranged for those areas.” However, in the same breath the minister said: “There might be little discrepancies in making the list of the victims as the power is vested with local panchayets.” “The block development officers (BDOs) should be more active in this regard and peruse the list of victims to avoid grievances,” she added. Regarding yesterday’s agitation in Manikchak the minister said: “They didn’t agitate. They were Trinamul supporters who were briefing me of the severity of the loss.”
Ratua Congress MLA Samar Mukherjee too expressed discontent with the performance of the local BDO. Mr Mukherjee said: “In today’s all party meeting I demanded additional arrangement of relief materials.” “Baharal and Paranpur have been fully damaged while Pukhuria, Ratua, Araidanga and Kahala have been partly damaged,” he informed adding that CPI-M and the RSP were politicizing the natural calamity.
The ADM-G Nurul Islam today took stock of the devastation at Harischandrapur I & II blocks. “The relief materials are being satisfactorily distributed across the district. Additional Tarpauling and food grains would be sent according the assessment of the loss in the storm hit areas,” Mr Islam added. He said: “Some people are trying to agitate people in political interest. But there is no complaint of corruption in distributing relief.”