Aila refugees flood Kolkata | india | Hindustan Times
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Aila refugees flood Kolkata

Some carry a trunk on their head, some have a hen tucked under the arm and some have nothing at all. The lucky ones have come by ferry, others have simply been walking, many of them two days at a stretch. The flood of Cyclone Aila victims are heading towards Kolkata from Sunderbans.

india Updated: May 30, 2009 22:29 IST
Sukumar Debnath

Some carry a trunk on their head, some have a hen tucked under the arm and some have nothing at all.

The lucky ones have come by ferry, others have simply been walking, many of them two days at a stretch. The flood of Cyclone Aila victims are heading towards Kolkata from Sunderbans.

On Friday they came in trickles, and on Saturday they arrived in waves. All heading for Kolkata in a march chillingly reminiscent of the great migration of famine victims in 1943.

All trains leaving the Canning station for Sealdah today are full of refugees – men, women and children who are shelterless and without food and water for days now.

“There is nothing left for us in the villages and entire human habitations have been wiped out. So I have set out for Kolkata,” said an aimless Khagen Mandal, who has no relatives or acquaintances in the city. Mandal, in his forties, has come from Lahiripur, an area near Sajnekhali forest.

The refugees have thoroughly exposed the authorities’ preparedness as lakhs in the Sunderbans are being denied basic relief even as a week closes in on Monday’s disaster. “No relief has arrived even on Saturday, forcing us to leave,” said Sumanta Mandal of Sonaga village.

On Sunday West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is supposed to tour hard hit Gosaba block.

Mandal treats the visit of the CMwith utter contempt. “He will come, have a look around and return. The devastation is too comprehensive to fix quickly,” he said as he embarks on the train to Sealdah.

What has contributed to the exodus of the refugees is the fact that the brackish water in the fields may make cultivation impossible for the next two to three years.

In the entire region the embankments has been breached allowing free access of seawater to flow in and out of the village four times a day.