Sunday, November 18, 2007

Violence-hit refugees wait for relief

Rajib Chatterjee
NANDIGRAM, Nov. 17: A total of 115 quintals of rice is stacked at the Nandigram-I block office ~ located within a 500-metre radius of Brajamohan Tewari High School where more than 4,000 victims of Nandigram violence, including hundreds of children and elderly people, are crying for food.
Officials said relief materials couldn’t be distributed properly among the displaced people of Nandigram because of the absence of a block relief officer. Nandigram-I block has been without a relief officer for the last four years, said Mr Ashok Kumar Sarkar, block development officer (BDO), Nandigram-I block. He said: “The Bhumi Ucched Protirodh Committee (BUPC) has demanded rice for the refugees. We have distributed a total 15 quintals of rice among them. Four tarpaulins have been given to the refugees to setup makeshift shelters.” Sheikh Sufiyan, senior BUPC member, said: “We had requested the administration to disburse relief materials, but they gave only 15 quintals of rice while we need more than 10 quintals of rice to feed the victims of CPI-M sponsored terror.” The BUPC is therefore requesting non-governmental organisations to come forward with relief materials.
“Waterborne diseases are spreading rapidly at the relief camp, thanks to contaminated drinking water. Repeated appeal to provide safe drinking water to refugees have fallen on deaf ears,” Sheikh Sufiyan said.
Dr Mridul Sarkar, a doctor belonging to a voluntary medical organisation, said more than 50 persons, including a few children, have taken ill after waterborne disease broke out at the camp.
Many persons have been suffering from fever, but the state government is yet to send a medical team to the camp, Dr Sarkar said. Dr Sarkar has visited the camp along with some other doctors and inspected the health condition of the refugees. When asked about the allegation, the BDO said: “The charges are false. We would give them more relief materials if they demand.”
“As part of our drive to restore peace in the area, we are organising peace talks to ensure return of victims to their own villages. If peace is restored, relief materials wouldn't be required,” said the official.
Mr Ramprasad Ghorai, an employee of the Nandigram-I block office said it is becoming difficult for him to handle the relief distribution mechanism.
“It was 2004 when block relief officer, Mr Amalesh Panda, was transferred from Nandigram-I block. The post has been lying vacant since then and I have been handling the relief distribution job alone.”