This Article is From Jun 01, 2009

Politics mars relief work in Aila-hit Bengal

AFP image

Sunderbans:

In Sunderbans, one of the worst hit areas, there is acute shortage of drinking water.

Sensing frustration and anger among cyclone victims, the Chief Minister has appealed to villagers to cooperate with government officials.

He has assured breached embankments would be done soon. But the villagers fear if that doesn't happen there will be fresh flooding during the next high tide in a week.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Trinamool Congress that has blamed the state government for delay in relief, now wants funds to be given to the local administration directly as was the case during Rajiv Gandhi's time.

"When he was the Prime Minister it was his mission that money should go through PM to DM because that is the grassroots level administration. And now you know Zila Parishad is more powerful than the district administration also. Whatever DM would do, they used to do it through Zila Parishad, Panchayat Samiti and Gram Sabha," Mamata said.

However, the state government is not comfortable with the demand.

"There is opposition in the Panchayat. Whatever differences of political parties, this is the challenge -- how we can save Sunderbans?" said Kanti Ganguly, Minister for Sunderbans Affairs

The Chief Minister's visit has brought some relief to villagers who have had no respite since the cyclone struck. But what it has not helped is that fact that not only the Sunderbans is the poorest part of Bengal, but the effective distribution of relief is being affected by a population which is estimated to be 1024 people per square kilometre.