Hit by Aila, cyclone survivors scoff at Buddhadeb (Lead)

June 2nd, 2009 - 10:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, June 2 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was heckled and jeered by the disgruntled survivors of Cyclone Aila Tuesday when he visited a relief camp in Sunderbans, while a ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) legislator was smeared with mud.
Venting their anger after the devastating cyclone caused death and destruction last month, villagers at a relief camp asked the chief minister why the state government had failed to build concrete embankments in Sundarbans despite being in power for more than past three decades.

“There are concrete embankments in Sundarbans on Bangladesh side. But, on the Indian side of Sundarbans there’s nothing. There’s been no development, no solid embankment in our territory,” a villager of Hingalganj asked Bhattacharjee during an interactive session.

“You’ve to listen to us sir. You must know how we’re surviving even after this natural calamity. There’s no drinking water for us, not even for the cattle. We’ve lost everything in the cyclone. We’re now just floating on the saline water.

“We’ve lost our near and dear ones in the cyclone but now we don’t want to lose anyone from our families. Please look into the issue and address these fundamental problems as quickly as possible,” he shouted.

The inmates kept complaining in raised voice that inadequate relief had been sent by the state government and staged a demonstration before the chief minister.

A section of villagers in Hingalganj also heckled Gopal Gayen, a CPI-M legislator, when he arrived to monitor the post-Aila situation of his constituency. They forced Gayen to wade through flood water and also smeared his face with mud.

Bhattacharjee Tuesday visited several cyclone-ravaged areas of North 24 Parganas district.

“I’ve come to listen to your problems. But first of all, we’ll have to rebuild the embankment,” the chief minister said.

A visibly peeved Bhattacharjee said: “If you want, I’ll send you a note explaining what the government has done in terms of providing social infrastructure to the people in Sundarbans in the past 32 years.”

Demanding immediate relief to the cyclone-hit areas, a section of agitated women in Sundarbans gathered with brooms and shoes near a school building at Sandeshkhali.

During his visit to the marooned islands, Bhattacharjee also proposed that residents of Sundarbans help rebuild the embankments damaged by Cyclone Aila.

“More than 400 km of embankments have been totally damaged in the devastating cyclone. We ask the people to join hands immediately and rebuild the embankments before the coming high tide next week. They would be paid for the work they do.

“If we can involve a large number of people in the process, we’ll be able to stop at least 70-80 percent of water during the high tide. We’ve decided that the entire work for rebuilding the embankment would be carried out by the villagers. The government will pay them for their efforts,” he said.

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