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Bengal floods: Lakhs affected, shortage of relief material leads to agitation, loot

Though there has been less rain in north Bengal districts since Thursday and water in many rivers has receded, shortage of relief material has added to the woes of flood-hit people in parts of Malda and North Dinajpur districts.

kolkata Updated: Aug 19, 2017 18:09 IST
Sreyasi Pal
Sreyasi Pal
Hindustan Times
Bengal Floods,Malda,North Dinajpur
Incessant rain and flooding of rivers have affected life in large parts of Malda district. (HT Photo)

The flood situation in north Bengal improved on Saturday with water receding in several rivers and the region receiving less rain. This, however, did not end the plight of lakhs of people marooned in different parts of five districts. Train and bus services remained suspended. Scarcity of food and relief material led to agitation in many places. At Itahar in North Dinajpur district, angry villagers even looted relief material and a man was injured, allegedly by a rubber bullet fired by the police.

Read: North Bengal districts remain cut off as heavy rain and fuming rivers flood towns, railway tracks, highways

In Malda district, the grievance of flood-affected people turned into a political issue. Sanjay Sharma, a BJP councillor from Englishbazar municipality, alleged that BJP supporters were denied relief because of their political affiliation. Malda witnessed the worst calamity in recent years.

The Mahananda river has washed away many human settlements that came up along its banks over the years. (HT Photo)

“More than 200 people in Ward 9 are going through extremely difficult times. But the Trinamool-run municipality is not providing them with relief material and shelter. This is nothing but political vendetta,” alleged Sharma, who was elected from the ward. He even wrote a letter to Nihar Ranjan Ghosh, chairman of the civic body.

Read: 600 dead in floods across India, Centre says states sitting on relief funds

Ghosh neither accepted nor denied the charges. “Any discrimination during distribution of relief material is undesirable. I have taken note of Sharma’s complain. I am looking into it,” Ghosh told HT.

At Itahar in North Dinajpur district, flood-hit people alleged that police fired rubber bullets at them when they were protesting against mismanagement in relief work and shortage of food. Bijoy Burman, a shopkeeper, was allegedly injured by a rubber bullet on Thursday evening.

Read: As rivers swell in Bengal, more cows, narcotics being smuggled into Bangladesh

District police superintendent Shyam Singh and Sanjay Seth, an orthopedic surgeon at Raigunj district hospital, made contradictory statements on the injury Burman suffered. While Singh claimed that police never opened fire at the crowd, Seth said Burman’s wound was caused by a rubber bullet but he was out of danger.

People staged agitation in South Dinajpur and Malda districts as well. Villagers looted relief material at Chanchal in Malda on Friday.

State irrigation minister Rajib Banerjee said because of incessant rainfall in Bihar, water level in the Mahananda and Fulahar rivers has risen again. “This is leading to inundation in areas that were earlier not affected although North Bengal received less rain in the last 48 hours,” said the minister.

First Published: Aug 19, 2017 18:09 IST