Monday, June 8, 2009

A Comprehensive Planning involving NGOs & Govt. set up is needed to Save Sunderban

Aila Relief Work at Raidighi and Gosaba Block by Hindu Samhati Relief Team

In its extended Relief Work the Hindu Samhati (HS) Relief Team responded to the plight of local people of Aila struck areas in and around Sunderban Delta. The local HS Workers always took the initiative to send the SOS to the HS appex body and chalked out proper planning to give every possible relief to the Aila affected people in many places.

On 05th June,2009 Prosenjit Sasmal, HS Team Leader from Kolkata reached Ghatiharania to take the local volunteers to cater its Relief work at Bhasa island in Raidighi Block in South 24 Parganas. Sonali Naskar, Judhisthir Mondal and Prasanta Halder from Joynagar and Neempeeth accompanied Prosenjit for Seva Work in the villages of Bhasa island. Chida ( parched rice), molasses, medicines and bleaching powder were distributed among 1200 Aila affected people.

On 06th June Tapan Kumar Ghosh, President Hindu Samhati flagged off the HS Relief Team at Sonakhali in Basanti Block. A strength of 39 HS workers lead by Upanand Brahmachari, Prokash Das and Sujit Maity ventured towards Basanti to reach in the core area of Sunderban Delta where the plight and sufferings of Aila struck people are severe.

A launch named M.V. Abhiyatri was hired to voyage to the point at Kakmari beyond Satjelia where the human habitation is almost destroyed due to Aila storm. A full fledged cooking arrangement was made in that launch to cook Khichudi ( Rice-Pulses-Vegetable mix) for distribution among the hungry and affected people throughout the coastal line through out the voyage at relief. The local HS workers packed 1000 liters of purified drinking water for distribution as the scarcity of drinking water in this area is high. At Basanti The Public Health Engineering Deptt. and Sunderban Development Board, Govt. of West Bengal gave 2500 liters packaged water and 50 kg bleaching Powder to HS Relief Team to distribute the same among the Aila affected people. Another supply of 1000 liter of drinking water was given to HS Relief Team by the Authority of Additional District Magistrate at Gosaba Jetty point.

As soon as the cooking materials and utensils were loaded in M.V. Abhiyatri, the cooking of Khichudi was started on the deck of the launch. Perhaps no relief team did in such a way to serve fresh and hot dish to people in starvation. After a long exploration the HS Team reached Bagbagan point where 250 people were served with Khichudi, drinking water and medicines. The people from the near by embankment of Hogla river staying there at starvation were shouting to draw the attention of the Relief Team at launch.

Towards Kakmari the HS Relief Team anchored at different points at 7 no. Hetalbari (Choto Mollakhali), Rangabele Uttarbhanga, 4 no. Mitrabari (Satjelia), 10 no. Lahiripur, Lahiripur Sahebghata to serve possible relief to the awaiting people in every point for getting some relief. The tasty n hot khichudi in the right time was the most expected item as no relief team served any cooked food in these areas till date. Drinking water and medicines are also in high demands everywhere.

The relief work was suspended for half an hour as there was a heavy rain across the river Hogla and it was a great experience as everybody was in anxiety by local weather forecast about 2nd phase of Aila storm.

At last the Relief Team reached Kakmari point where the Aila devastation uprooted a nearby villages completely. There is no trace of many houses and the villagers left the place after the havoc. Some residents staying there under compulsion took relief materials from the visiting team and conveyed their gratitude to the HS team with tears.

After that the HS team reached Rajatjugli (Satjelia), Patharpara, Santigachi, Anpur and Jamespur. The areas are mostly inhabited by poor tribal people and they took Khichudi with high satisfaction sitting on the muddy ground. The scene was pain staking to the relief workers to realize the situation of the affected people. Drinking Water and Medicines and Bleaching Powder were also distributed as per demand and necessity.
The overall situation of Sunderban Core area and the Aila affected adjacent places and far regions in Gosaba, Sandeshkhali, Hashnabad and Hinganganj Blocks is very dangerous. It is next to impossible to do all the necessary disaster management works within a time frame by the Govt itself. Moreover, the health and sanitation situation is worsening day by day. The last 'bhora kotal' - full tide has affected the ongoing river-bank repairing works in another damaging condition. The outbreak of diarrhea, entiric fever and acute respiratory infections of children are looming a high threat in thuis aila affected areas. The problem of safe drinking water is also a big big problem unsolved as there is no comprehensive planning made by the conerned authorities as perceived.
In such a contrast of Nature's Curse and the Man made Loop-holes, it is a question of survival for the people in plight in Sunderban. Unless the Govt. plan for a comprehensive strategy including people co- operations, NGO initiatives and the cutting off all red-tapes in Govt level, a mere level of Relief Work for a temporary measure can not produce any permanent relief for the people of Sunderban always under the threat of 'Aila' or some other 'Liala'.

About 2000 affected people of 11 places were benefited on this Seva Day on 6th June rendered by Hindu Samhati, West Bengal.
Posted by Sambuddha Gupta/Spotlight Media Team, Kolkata & Sunderban
South 24 Parganas, West Bengal

CM harps on Cong merits to needle Mamata


Calcutta, June 7: If cyclone Aila had offered Mamata Banerjee an opportunity to hound a poll-battered Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the chief minister hit back today by highlighting her partner Congress’s presence at an all-party meeting to discuss relief and rehabilitation at Writers’ Buildings.

The Congress joined the meeting ostensibly to record its criticism of the government’s disaster management failure but many in the CPM were happy, apparently having succeeded in driving a small wedge between the Opposition allies.
The Trinamul Congress skipped the meeting and if the reaction of its state president is anything to go by, it did not take kindly to the Congress’s gesture.
Bhattacharjee didn’t let go of the opportunity, pointing out his rapport with Manmohan Singh and Pranab Mukherjee. “Why should we think our meeting ended in a deadlock just because the principal Opposition party didn’t turn up? We held the meeting successfully…. All the Left parties were there. The Congress, a national party which is running the government at the Centre, was present,” he said.
“I am in touch with the Prime Minister, finance minister and the home minister. We are working together (to tackle the post-cyclone crisis). The Congress leaders today assured me that they would try their best to ensure central assistance,” he added.
The chief minister underlined the importance of the Congress several times while briefing the media on the 90-minute meeting. “The Congress gave the suggestion and others agreed to it. So we decided to meet again next Sunday,’’ Bhattacharjee said.
According to him, many participants felt they had had little time to ponder over the government’s report on the damage and destruction since it was only circulated during today’s meeting. “They will come up with their considered opinion next week.”
Manas Bhuniya and Sub- rata Mukherjee of the Congress not only signed the official resolution urging a joint effort by the state and the Centre to help the distressed but also agreed to attend the second round.
Yesterday, state Congress working president Pradip Bhattacharya had said that not attending the meeting would show “the party in poor light across the country”.
At the media briefing, Subrata tried to highlight how critical his party had been of the state government at the meeting. “We ripped apart the state government for its shoddy relief work. We told the chief minister that the CPM was doing politics over distribution of relief, which has not reached many.”
The chief minister, too, was politically correct, admitting the failure to reach out to the people in remote areas and stressing that the meeting had been called to rise above “narrow politics”.
Bhattacharjee said: “You ask the principal Opposition party why they didn’t turn up. It is unfortunate that she did not attend the meeting despite my invite. Nor did she send a reply to it…. We can’t stop our efforts just because of their absence. Our invitation (to Trinamul) stands.”
Trinamul state chief Subrata Bakshi said: “The Congress protests at the meeting were an eyewash. They are helping the CPM improve its image, which has taken a beating.”
Mamata said her party would also not attend next Sunday’s meeting. “We cannot oblige those who could not send a drop of drinking water to the cyclone-hit in a week by attending an all-party meeting.”
Asked about the Congress, she said: “The Congress is a different party and has its own compulsions. Maybe the Congress is thinking that the CPM may not attend an all-party meeting when it calls one.”

CM plays safe on Mamata

Statesman News Service KOLKATA, 7 JUNE

Chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said he is in touch with the Prime Minister, Union finance minister and home minister directly to ensure enough assistance from the Centre to rehabilitate the Aila-affected people. Referring to the Railway minister and Trinamul chief, Miss Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister said, “They are the ministers who are dealing with the issue. But we are not avoiding any other minister. All are welcome to take part in the initiative to help the cyclone affected people.” It can be recalled that Miss Banerjee had earlier demanded that Central assistance should be given directly to either the district authorities or the gram panchayats as she does not have any confidence on the CPI-M-led state government. Emerging from the all party meeting that was called to ensure proper distribution of relief materials in the affected areas, the CM said the Congress and some other parties have pointed out that relief materials have not got to some remote areas. “We are trying to resolve the problem as early as possible. This apart, the Congress has claimed that distribution of relief materials is being politicised in some areas. We are also looking into the matter with utmost sincerity.” However, the Trinamul Congress and its ally Suci stayed away from the meeting. The Congress said that as the state government did not provide any information regarding the damage caused by Aila or the steps which have been undertaken to rehabilitate the affected, it was tough for them to take part in the discussion where rehabilitation of the affected people was discussed. However, the CM said he has decided to convene another all party meeting on 14 June as all such documents have been provided to the Congress and other parties today during the meeting. Dr Manas Bhunia, who represented the Congress in the meeting today, said, “The state government has failed to ensure relief to all the affected properly. Politics and lack of coordination between the district authorities and the gram panchayats are affecting distribution of relief badly. We have raised all the issues in the meeting and sought proper action.” He also said they would take up the issue of rehabilitation with the Centre and help the state to get as much assistance as possible from the Centre. The CM too mentioned that Congress would help them to get proper assistance from the Centre. On the Trinamul Congress' absence in the meeting, the CM said, “It would have been very good had they attended the meeting. But we can't stop our efforts, if somebody does not join the initiative.”Meanwhile, on the second day of high tide, no fresh damage occurred in the Aila-ravaged villages of South 24-Parganas as the water level did not increase much.

Coordination problem hits relief work

8 Jun 2009, 0412 hrs IST, Suman Chakraborti, TNN

KOLKATA: Lack of coordination among the government departments involved in relief work is resulting in much of the materials either getting lost or being grabbed by only a few. Relief
materials requisitioned by the panchayats are not even reaching the district magistrate's office properly. "It is not that relief materials like food and clothes are not being sent. So many trucks are being sent carrying relief materials, but where they are going? Another reason why relief is not reaching the remote areas is that it is not possible for the boats to reach everywhere," said Institute of Climbers and Nature Lovers secretary Mrinal Chatterjee. Many local clubs that have taken the initiative of their own in sending relief materials to the affected places were also complaining that the block-level officials have failed so far in sending relief materials to the worst-affected places. "We are getting complaints that a huge amount of relief material being requisitioned by the panchayats are not even reaching the DM's office. Where is it going then?" complained Tarun Halder, working for a club at Canning. Some officials involved in relief work also complained that no higher official from the DM office was seen in the last couple of days. "We could not contact the North 24-Parganas DM and ADM (treasury) for the last two days. Relief work is thus getting hampered," said a worker.
Unfortunately, many ordinary people who are themselves not very well off are trying to contribute with foods and clothes, but they have no idea where to approach or whether their contribution is being properly collected. What is also hampering relief work is that those who have been involved in relief work do not have the required training to do relief and rescue work for such a long period of time. In many places, relief workers are getting tired working continuously as they are not receiving any support.

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