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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Khardah Assembly bypoll: Lack of proper drainage, drinking water top residents’ woes

Locals claim there's a lack of basic urban amenities, such as uninterrupted drinking water supply and functional sewer lines, as well as low quality healthcare and education.

Written by Sweety Kumari | Khardah |
October 28, 2021 11:16:45 am
Trinamool Congress candidate Sovandeb Chattopadhyay with Panihati MLA Nirmal Ghosh, Minister Chandrima Bhattacharjee at a street corner in Khardah on Tuesday. (Express Photo: Partha Paul)

Less than 20 km away from the heart of Kolkata, the Khardah Assembly constituency is significantly behind the state capital when it comes to infrastructure development, say residents.

Locals claim there’s a lack of basic urban amenities, such as uninterrupted drinking water supply and functional sewer lines, as well as low quality healthcare and education.

The lack of underground drainage in the area lay exposed in the wake of persistent rains this year. Three members of a family, including a 10-year-old boy, died after being electrocuted in their waterlogged home in the Patulia complex of Khardah after two days of continuous rainfall left the area flooded.

The lack of proper underground drains to discharge rainwater has been a problem for people, especially in the low-lying areas, for years now. The locals aren’t hopeful of a change anytime soon; most said the Assembly bye-election on October 30, which was necessitated following the death of Kajal Sinha, is just an electoral “formality” which won’t make any significant difference to their lives.

The Assembly seat fell vacant after Sinha, the Trinamool Congress candidate in the polls earlier this year, succumbed to Covid-19 before the results were declared on May 2.

According to locals, the pending renovation of the Khardah khal (canal) is to blame for the prevailing flooding woes in the area. The canal receives the rainwater discharge from nearby areas such as Baruapara and Nawazpara and the delay in renovation work has left the locals grappling with extensive waterlogging.

“The canal overflows in the event of heavy rains and the accumulation of silt has reduced its capacity to drain out excess rainwater from nearby areas. The result is severe waterlogging every time there is a downpour. My two-year-old daughter nearly fell into the canal during the monsoon this year, but we somehow managed to pull her back. We have lost all hope and no matter who wins, the situation isn’t likely to change. We will vote simply because it is our democratic responsibility to do so,” said 22-year-old Beauty Biswas.

“We will vote without having any high hopes,” Subhash Mondal, a resident of Baruapara in Khardah, said.

While the outcome of the October 30 bypoll will not make any difference to how the ruling party as well as the Opposition are represented in the Assembly, the candidates are leaving no stone unturned to woo voters.

Mamata Banerjee has already won the (Bhabanipur) bypoll battle. Recent elections have shown that the people won’t vote for any other party other than Mamata’s. However, I am hopeful that our victory margins would be better than before,” state Agriculture Minister and senior Trinamool leader Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, who is the ruling party candidate from Khardah, told The Indian Express.

After trouncing BJP’s Rudnanil Ghosh in the state polls earlier this year, Chattopadhyay resigned as Bhabanipur MLA to make way for Mamata, who lost to former-aide-turned-baiter Suvendu Adhikari from Nandigram and had to be elected as an MLA to continue as chief minister.

A stronghold of the Trinamool, the seat was won twice by state Finance Minister Amit Mitra, in 2011 and 2016, by 26,154 and 21,192 votes, respectively.

Chattopadhyay said he was confident of winning Khardah by an even bigger margin than he won Bhabanipur.

Khardah polled in the sixth phase of the Assembly elections on April 22.

The chief administrator of Khardah municipality and two-time councillor, Kajal Sinha defeated his nearest rival and former party colleague, Shilbhadra Dutta of the BJP, by nearly 28,041 votes.

“Mostly, candidates residing 30-40 km away have been elected MLAs from here. It has always been a tourist spot for ministers. The people of Khardah are still deprived of basic amenities such as proper drinking water, good roads, transportation and drainage. There are issues with almost everything. Kajal Sinha was a son of the soil. So, the people voted for him. The area deserves a local MLA who can understand the problems of the residents and be with them all the time. Waterlogging is the biggest problem here. The BJP will no doubt benefit if people decide to come out and vote in large numbers. However, because of all the post-poll violence, people everywhere I go ask if they are allowed to vote,” BJP candidate Joy Saha told The Indian Express.

Once a stronghold of the CPI(M), Khardah was represented five times by former finance minister Asim Dasgupta. In 2011, Amit Mitra wrested the seat after defeating Dasgupta by a margin of 21,200 votes. It’s been a Trinamool fortress ever since.

The Assembly segment is part of the Dum Dum Lok Sabha constituency. Trinamool’s North Dum Dum MLA Chandrima Bhattacharya has been campaigning actively for Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay. “We are confident of winning, there is no question about it. It will be 4-0 in the bypolls,” Bhattacharya said while canvassing for the party candidate in the Maheshpota Morh (intersection) on Tuesday.

The results of the Assembly bypolls to four seats — Dinhata, Santipur, Khardah and Gosaba — will be announced on November 2. The bypoll in Gosaba was necessitated by the death of the winning Trinamool candidate.

The Left Front, which drew a blank in the Assembly polls, has fielded Debjyoti Das from Khardah.

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