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Thursday, October 21, 2021

With no water & power, flood-hit Hooghly town asks: ‘how will we survive’

In Hooghly district, almost all rivers are overflowing. In August, embankments of some rivers were breached and many areas have been flooded three-four times.

Written by Atri Mitra |
October 4, 2021 4:32:35 am
A woman with her children crosses a flooded path at Khanakul-I in Hooghly, Sunday Partha Paul

Forty-seven-year-old Anjali Midya has many concerns on her mind: her flooded mud house, lack of electricity, water and food, no earnings in the last three months, missing Durga Puja — and the safety of her three grandchildren.

To ally at least one of her fears, the daily wage labourer has tied down her grandchildren with a rope to protect them from drowning.

Two days after her mud house was inundated by water in Khanakul-I block of Hooghly district, her family, including her husband with two sons and three grandchildren, have been cooped up in her neighbour’s house — that too marooned by water. The family earns their living by working as daily wagers.

“This year we have faced three floods in just one-and-a-half month. We do not know what will happen as Durga Puja is now just a week away. Our main concern is how we can survive this situation. We have failed to buy any new clothes for Puja,” says Midya

Midya’s apprehension is a constant refrain in Hooghly district, one of the eight districts battling floods. The rivers in these districts are in spate after excess water was released from the Maithon and Panchet barrage on September 30 night.

With two days to go for ‘Mahalaya’, residents are also worried about Puja preparations.

Sailen Chakraborty (35), a neighbour of Midya, says, “If water does not recede, I fear there will be no Durga Puja in our area.”

At Kumarhati More, a half completed pandal is in water. Shankar Kanrar, one of the organisers, laments, “We have almost zero fund. But we can’t stop Puja. Now, we have decided that only local businessmen of this bazar will contribute.”

However, Rajkumar Midya (48), a cook, strikes an optimistic note and believes that Goddess Durga will bring down the water level. “If Durga Puja is cancelled, there won’t be any food orders and I have to suffer a lot of losses just like last year due to Covid.”

In Hooghly district, almost all rivers are overflowing. In August, embankments of some rivers were breached and many areas have been flooded three-four times.

Several have complained of inadequate drinking water and electricity. Alamgir, a resident of Kachhra, complains, “All tubewells in our areas are now under water. Some drinking water pouches were supplied by the gram panchayet but these were not sufficient. Since September 30, there has been no electricity. We have been suffering for the last one and a half months. This has now become unbearable for us.”

Around 150 families have taken on a higher ground at Khanakul Dharampura road. With plastic sheets as their roof, the stranded people are praying for their safety.

The plight of Hooghly residents has drawn sharp criticism from the Opposition BJP.

BJP leader Biman Ghosh says: “We have not yet seen any initiative from the administration. So, we decided to send relief on our own. From tomorrow, we will send dry food and other materials to the people of Khanakul.”

District TMC leader Becharam Manna, however, counters the BJP, saying two drinking water vending machines have been installed at Khanakul. “The party and district administration are already doing their best to reach out to flooded people. We will reach to people in remote places within a day.”

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday conducted an aerial survey of the flood-affected districts of the state. Banerjee criticised the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) and blamed it for discharging water without informing the state government. She demanded the DVC give compensation to flooded-affected people.

DVC claimed that the decision to release water was taken by the Damodar Valley Reservoir Regulation Committee (DVRRC), comprising members from Jharkhand and West Bengal governments.

It said the West Bengal government was informed about the release six hours in advance through email and a WhatsApp group.


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