Bengal Faces Apathy Amid Crippling Flood: Another Bongo-Bhongo?

Basudev Nag Chowdhury | People’s Brigade

West Bengal has observed a reoccurrence of ‘Bongo-Bhongo’, however, this time a divide between its north and south, due to extremely serious flood condition. After two weeks have passed, still there is no transport connectivity or any vehicle available for going from south to north or vice versa other than the air routes. With the speculation economy in action, the air tickets have reached a level of ten to fifteen thousands of rupees which generally cost a thousand only over the year. You may make a film on ‘NH-34’ which is still populated by thousands of people, homeless in flood, although there is no question of honour killing since all of them have been left to be killed without a roof over their heads.

On the eve of the Independence Day celebration, people of the state got down-and-out due to water engulfing their rooms in no time. At least 20% of the population of West Bengal being dreadfully affected by this flood, and an official announcement of death toll crossing 150 lives, no one can see any practical relief initiative taken either by the TMC in power of the state or the BJP in power of the central. One can guaranty that whatever relief materials could be provided to the affected people necessary to save their lives have been entirely organized by several private initiatives and not by any of the governments.

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Two Midnapurs, Bankura and Howrah of the south-west and from Maldah to two Dinajpurs along with Kochbihar, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar of the north Bengal are dangerously flooded apparently due to the recent heavy rain. Among these, Maldah, being nearest to the Farakka Barrage over the Ganges, has been under tremendous threat; however, in reality it has been terribly flooded, predominantly by Mahananda and other local rivers, unexpectedly overflowed due to water release of the barrages and some of the dams being broken down. Firstly, you have forced Nature against its nature, and then, you are Indifferent about its maintenance!

To express the situation in a little more detail, we can share our experience while working for flood relief in Maldah. On behalf of People’s Brigade, one of our teams went to an interior region of Nalagola situated at the border of Maldah and South Dinajpur. A number of croplands extended over more than 200 bighas have entirely been flooded by the rivers Purnabhaba and Tangan which generally exhibit a knee low water level. There was no central relief camp and all the families took shelter in a local school building. The Panchayat there is run by TMC and the MLA is from CPI(M) but none of them had taken any step for the affected people after repeated communications from them. All the families were rescued by a local private boat within one and a half day till August 15 midnight. Thereafter the government provided a single rescue-boat for the two districts which was withdrawn on the very next day. No foods or clothes have still been granted for them by the government, and whatever supports have been provided, are done by initiatives of organizations like ours. At this point it is to be mentioned that there is generally a consensus among urban middle classes that ‘we’ are doing enough for these very poor people. An old village man told us, “we don’t eat ‘khichdi’ in general but now we are compelled to; we eat good quality foods since we produce our own chaul, daal and other crops”. Thus it should be made clear that we are being able to provide them not more than enough but less than the necessities. And the government is not even offering that minimum support for saving their lives. Mamta Banerjee led TMC being in power has decided not to provide any real relief and they will possibly declare some compensation and go to peaceful sleep, and such recompense will never reach to the hands of affected people.

And what amount may compensate the loss, even if it is about the economic loss? Leave the question of damaged houses and other lost equipments. We have seen more than 200 bighas of land cropped with Masuri and Sona-Masuri paddy completely drowned under water in a small ‘panchayat ilaka’. It costs not less than 25 lakhs of rupees. All over the Bengal see a more than 8 lakh hectares of cropped land. How will it be reimbursed? And what about the food crisis that we are going to experience very soon? Will we expect to the BJP at the centre to do the needful? What about the rail lines and roads those have seriously been damaged and led to repartition of Bengal into north and south? Also there was no ‘go-rakshakh bahini’ found to save the cows and buffalos those have flowed out by the flood water.

These days observe at least one election each year including from panchayats and municipalities to assembly and parliament and other by-elections. However, when it is the question of lives of people that comes in reality, no established political parties are seen in practical action. Rather they involve in verbal wars by accusing each other via commercial media. Everyone in Bengal is feeling the need of people’s politics against such establishment politics.

  • K SHESHU BABU

    As usual with all other states during floods, government apathy in West Bengal is telling. Despite huge loss of life, the relief measures have been very little and pathetic