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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

In flooded Ghatal, residents say ‘nobody cares about our misery’

Over five dozen prisoners have been removed from the jail along with its staff members, and the empty inundated jail is now locked.

Written by Atri Mitra |
Updated: August 3, 2021 2:43:06 pm
Boats are the only mode of transport in Ghatal now. (Express Photo by Partha Paul)

From Ghatal police station to the local jail and the SDO office to even the local disaster management office, all have been inundated. Police have fled the police station to take shelter in a house at the Ghatal bus stand. Over five dozen prisoners have been removed from the jail along with its staff members, and the empty inundated jail is now locked.

Ghatal is now almost submerged in the water of the Shilabati river.

Residents said that for the last half a decade or so, Ghatal has been witnessing floods every three to four years.

Ghatal has almost submerged in Shilabati river. (Express Photo by Partha Paul)

“This year, Ghatal has witnessed one of the worst floods in 50 years,” said 58-year-old Anil Maity perched on his boat near the Ghatal bus stand on Monday.

Maity used to ferry people across the Shilabati river on his boat before the town got flooded. Now, he helps people navigate the inundated streets of Ghatal on his boat as boats are the only means of transportation.

“Four years ago, Ghatal was flooded three times in one year. But, this year it has been the worst. The water level is now at least two feet higher from the previous flooding,” he added.

As incessant rain lashed the region last week, embankments along the Shilabati and Burigang rivers were breached in at least ten places late Friday night, causing widespread flooding. Four blocks of Ghatal sub-divisions in Paschim Medinipur district – Daspur-1, Ghatal, Chandrakona-1, Chandrokona-2 — and all the wards of Ghatal municipality, and at least four wards of Kharar municipality have been inundated.

People ferrying on submerged streets, result of incessant rain. (Express Photo by Partha Paul)

Since Saturday, the town has had no electricity and all the water supply taps have got submerged in floodwater.

Homeguard Pratap Paul (30), who hails from Lalgarh in Jhargram district, was posted to Ghatal Police Station last year. He said: “Water started entering the police station from Friday night. By Saturday noon, the entire police station was nearly submerged. We somehow managed to get shelter in a house near the bus stand… I have never seen such a flood.”

Since Monday morning, water has moved away from Ghatal-Chandrakona road. The two “banks” of the water-filled roads are submerged, and at some places, the water is more than ten feet deep.

Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee, who visited the flood-hit areas on Monday, said, “I have witnessed several floods in the past, but this time the situation is terrible in Ghatal sub-division. There are places that have been completely submerged by floodwater. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told me to come here and take stock of the situation. I will report to her.”

Near the Ghatal Police Station area, Mita Pramanik, in her late 50s, was rowing her boat.

“Every time, all the political parties promise to implement the“Ghatal Master Plan” which they say will minimise the flood occurrence. But, it is yet to be implemented. We have now got used to this frequent flooding. We have no drinking water. So, we have to go to the market to collect drinking water,” she said.

TMC assures to clear the riverbeds. (Express Photo by Partha Paul)

But local TMC councillor Tuhin Kanti Bera blamed the non-implementation of the Ghatal Master Plan on the BJP government at the Centre. “The Centre did not give money to implement Ghatal Master Plan as the plan involves removing sand deposition from the riverbed of Shilabati and Kangshabati rivers to prevent flooding. Our local party MP should take immediate steps because people of Ghatal cannot bear this flood which is now happening almost every year,” said Bera.

Another TMC leader and Zila Parishad member Shyamapada Patra, however, assured that the TMC government will soon start the clearing of riverbeds even if the “Centre doesn’t give financial assistance”.

However, BJP leader Samik Bhattacharya said that it is the state government’s responsibility to prevent Ghatal from recurrent floods. “Manas Bhuyian, who was most vocal on Ghatal Master Plan, is in TMC now. He was in Congress when his party was in power at the Centre, and that plan was not implemented. Then, the TMC blamed the Left Front government in the state for not implementing the master plan. So, where was the Central government then? This is the state government’s responsibility,” he said.

Uttam De, who runs a photocopy shop near the bus stand, has been living under a tent on the rooftop of his house. “Almost every year, we face this flooding, but nobody cares. We have stopped expecting anything from anyone now,” he said.

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