IN THE run-up to the Panchayat polls next year, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday visited a village at Hasnabad in North 24 Parganas district to listen to the residents’ grievances.
After being apprised of the severe drinking water crisis, the CM promised a tap for drinking water in the area in seven days and piped water lines to each house in Sundarbans by 2024.
Banerjee, who is on a three-day visit to Taki, Sundarban and other parts of North 24 Paraganas, took the water boat route to visit Khanpukur village in Hasnabad Assembly constituency. During her one-and-half hour journey from Taki to Hasnabad, people from several villages through that stretch gathered at the banks of the Ichamati River to catch a glimpse of the Chief Minister.
Around 1:45 pm, she reached Khanpukur village and went to a local junior primary school. She distributed soft toys, winter wear and dresses among the schoolchildren and also interacted with them.
“The CM spoke to the children and asked them what they aspire to become. It was a good gesture,” said Arindam Chakrabarty, the teacher-in-charge of Khanpukur junior primary school.
From there, Banerjee went to Khanpukur Pragati Sangha Math to distribute winter wear among women.
Nearly 1,000 villages in Khanpukur are facing an acute shortage of drinking water despite being situated on the banks of the Dasha River.
“Didi sari diche ki hobe sari niye khabar jol to aar payi ni… Amar bari bhanglo amphan a aajo thik thak bari payi ni..(Didi is giving us sarees… What use are these when we don’t have drinking water? My house was damaged during Cyclone Amphan and till date, I have no pucca house,” said Anima Haldar, a villager.
“We buy water daily. The situation is such that during the Covid-19 pandemic, when there was no one to supply even these bottles, we managed without water for days. Didi loves us but at times, her love doesn’t reach us,” said another villager, Kankoli Mandal.
Later in the day, Banerjee promised to address water woes and said a master plan to develop the Sundarbans region would soon be drafted and sent to Niti Aayog for its consideration.
“I have personally come here to see how things are. Here, water is a problem. I am giving charge of Sundarbans to ADM Preety Goyal, who will ensure that a tap is fixed here within seven days. I will ask her to work with the public health engineering department and ensure that water is supplied here. I promise that individual piped drinking water connections will reach each house by 2024-end,” said the CM.
She asked officials to “find a way out” immediately and ensure there is water supply in the area. Banerjee added, “I have heard that the condition of roads are not good…Thus, I have decided to travel by road while returning to Taki,” said Banerjee.
“Now we hope to get water soon. We knew that if didi visits us once our problem will be solved. She has good intentions but things don’t reach us,” said another villager, Madhavi Haldar.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister also tried her hand at knitting a floor mat with the woman villagers and spoke about the problems they face. One of the women, Namita Mondal, then offered her lunch. Namita served rice and Tangra fish with egg and offered her the same on a steel plate.
Banerjee was seen relishing the food as she continued talking to them.
“Chawal to sakto…khub bhalo ranna hoyeche kintu ektu jhal (The rice is a little hard, fish tastes really good but it is a little spicy),” Banerjee said. Namita Mondal also told the CM that she was yet to get benefits of the state government’s ‘Lakshmir Bhandar’ cash transfer scheme. Banerjee assured her of help and asked the Block Development Officer to look into the matter.
“She [Banerjee] is so down to earth. I wish she would visit us more often. Basic amenities haven’t reached us, let alone the schemes that her government offers. Now that she has visited our village, we hope that there will be some change,” said a villager, Sabita Mandal.