June 14, 2009

Buddhadeb rides autorickshaw to cyclone-hit Sunderbans

Hingalganj: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Saturday travelled in an autorickshaw to meet Cyclone Aila victims in remote areas of this North 24 Parganas block.

Bhattacharjee, who had been jeered by the disgruntled cyclone survivors owing allegiance to the Trinamool Congress during his June 2 visit to the block, was well received by people who showered petals and raised slogans praising the state’s Left Front government.

Hingalganj, 69 km southeast of Kolkata and part of the Mangrove delta of Sundarbans, has been badly mauled in the May 25 cyclone which tore through 13 of the state’s 19 districts levelling houses, uprooting trees, snapping power cables and leaving a trail of destruction.

So far, 138 deaths have been reported in the natural calamity across various districts.

The chief minister, on his fourth visit to Aila-affected areas in nearly three weeks, crossed the Ichhamati river by a launch from Dhamakhali to reach Sardarpara and then travelled four kilometres in an autorickshaw up to Jogeshganj to talk to victims and listen to their problems.

While on the launch, he also made unscheduled stops at places like Gopaler Ghat to speak to cyclone-hit people and gave them a patient hearing.

“People won’t have to pay the college fees for one year. Admission dates will be extended for them. And from my relief fund I will give you money for buying books and exercise books,” Bhattacharjee told the cyclone survivors who gathered at a playground in Jogeshganj.

“But I can’t build pucca houses for all of you with the state government’s resources. The centre should give us money. It must allocate funds for putting up concrete embankments in the entire Sundarbans,” he said.

The chief minister also told people that work on rebuilding 60 percent of the mud embankments washed away in the area due to the cyclone was over. “The rest will also be over soon.

“I am going to meet prime minister Manmohan Singh on June 19. I think I can persuade Delhi to help,” he said.

He also spoke to administrative officials and asked them about relief operations.Hingalganj legislator Gopal Gayen, who was smeared with mud by some people hours before the chief minister’s visit June 2, seemed a relieved man after the visit.“This only proves Sundarbans is still the same. The people have not changed,” he said.

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