Other States

Cyclone evacuees and migrants under one roof in West Bengal

No distancing: Migrants are in quarantine at a cyclone shelter in South 24 Parganas district in West Bengal.

No distancing: Migrants are in quarantine at a cyclone shelter in South 24 Parganas district in West Bengal.  

Before cyclone Amphan struck on May 20, officials of the Achintyanagar gram panchayat in Pathapratima block of West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas tried to move as many people as possible to cyclone shelters. The gram panchayat, with a population of 30,000, is situated close to the sea, over 100 km away from Kolkata. The impact of the cyclone was expected to be severe in this part of the Sunderbans.

Also read: Cyclone Amphan | NDRF relief disbursed to West Bengal, Odisha

A newly built multi-purpose cyclone shelter near the panchayat office, which was serving as a quarantine centre for migrant workers returning from Haryana and Delhi, was also assigned to shelter hundreds of villagers from the cyclone.

“On the day of the cyclone, the situation was really bad. We had to put villagers in the cyclone shelter along with the quarantined people,” Gauri Halder, deputy pradhan of the gram panchayat, said.

In remote areas, particularly in the South 24 Parganas and the islands of Sunderbans, cyclone shelters were turned into quarantine shelters for migrant workers returning from different parts of the country. But when the administration had to evacuate people from low-lying areas because of cyclone Amphan’s trajectory, they had little option but to put locals into the same shelters.

‘To prevent deaths’

Dulal Sith, the pradhan of the gram panchayat, also admitted that locals were housed with quarantined persons, and added that many people under quarantine are now pressurising authorities that they should be allowed to go home. “We had evacuated about 7,000-8,000 people and kept them in cyclone shelters. In the panchayat office alone, there were 200 people. This was the only way to prevent deaths and injuries [when the cyclone made landfall],” the pradhan said.

Panchayat officials have been successful to the extent that nobody died in Achintyanagar gram panchayat, located at a distance of only 10 km from the Bay of Bengal. However, the social distancing and quarantine measures could not be followed.

Also read: Bengal seeks help from Army to restore infrastructure

In the three-storeyed cyclone shelter of Achintyanagar about 100 migrant workers, mostly returned from Haryana and Delhi, remained in quarantine on Monday afternoon, while the villagers returned to their homes. In gram panachayats like Achintyanagar, the number of people returning from outside is as high as 10% of the population. About 3,000 migrant workers have returned here so far.

State’s Home Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, while speaking to journalists at the State Secretariat on Tuesday, admitted that the infrastructure, particularly the road transportation sector and the health apparatus in the State, was “stressed” because of cyclone Amphan. Mr. Bandyopadhyay said that in such circumstances, the return of migrants should be organised in “a planned and staggered” manner.

From May 26, trains carrying migrant workers of the State from different parts of the country will start their journey to West Bengal.

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Aug 10, 2020 8:19:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/cyclone-evacuees-and-migrants-under-one-roof-in-west-bengal/article31680675.ece

Next Story