As Sunderbans head for polls, post-Amphan corruption taint haunts TMC. Madhusudan Mondol, 54, has been busy for the past few days, fixing the thatched roof of his hut with fresh new grass. His cottage in Satjelia, a mountain island of Sunderbans in West Bengal, was badly damaged in May last year when Hurricane Amphan devastated the Sunderbans.
“This is the first paddy harvest we got after the storm. The rainy season is coming and I need to fix my house. The mud wall had also collapsed and had been repaired for a long time, ”said Mondol, lamenting that compensation approved by the government had not reached him. “I didn’t get a single cent,” he said.
It was on May 20 last year that Hurricane Amphan sank in six districts south of Bengal leaving 98 dead and the trail of destruction. The Sunderbans islands spread across the two provinces of North 24 Parganas and South 25 Parganas and the coastal region of East Midnapore are the worst hit.
Joydeb Khatua, a Sandeshkhali resident in North 24 Parganas said that he did not get a penny even though my house was damaged, I lost two goats and a few hens and my crops were also gone. But he have heard that many in the area, who were close to the ruling party, received compensation.
The storm destroyed 10.5 lakh hectares of cropland as well as cattle and poultry around nine lakh.
It was a major impact for the Sunderbans as the area was already signed by the effects of climate change including rising salinity, frequent floods and hurricanes as well as human conflicts. The delta has seen mass migration to the cities a decade ago after hurricane Aila hit villages that left bare areas over the next few years.
About a year has passed since the storm and now four meeting seats in Sunderbans – Gosaba, Patharpratima, Kakdwip and Sagar – would go to the polls in the second round of the eight-phase election. The remaining nine will go to the polls in the third and fifth rounds.
“These areas are all TMC domains. Although the BJP made incredible gains in other parts of the state in 2019 including northern Bengal and the national belts of Jangalmahal, it failed to get in here. But circumstances seemed to have changed after Amphan and its aftermath had serious allegations of corruption against the ruling party. There is anger in the people, ”said a former Sundarbans Development Board official.
Mamata Banerjee officials estimated that the storm caused an estimated damage to 0 1.02 lakh crore – with massive losses due to 2.8 million homes destroyed. The government has announced a package of ₹ 6,250 crore, in addition to each ₹ 1,000 crore package announced by the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi after conducting an air survey of the devastated area.
Banerjee announced that ₹ 20,000 would be transferred to bank accounts for each of the five lakh families affected by the storm and confirmed that an additional ,000 28,000 would be added to each family under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Scheme (MNREGS).
“But where did the money go? I can take you to twelve families who have never received compensation like me. But there are people who have received money to get close to the ruling party even though their houses are not badly damaged, ”said Sanjib Maity, a resident of Mahisadal in East Midnapore, another constituency who entered polling stations with 30 others on Thursday.
A few days after the relief work began, serious allegations surfaced from many districts that compensation had not yet reached the victims but was largely based on people who had not lost their storm and were close to the ruling party.
Conflict has arisen at the level of blocks and districts, as it turns out that local TMC leaders benefit greatly. In some areas, women took the lead in protest.
With less than a year to go before the convention election, Banerjee had to intervene. While on the other hand they punished a few leaders in the TMC blocks by removing them or issuing notices indicating the cause, many were forced to return the money.
While on the one hand the supremo of TMC suspected that the matter was being run out of equality on the other hand it accepted that there were some errors in the distribution of aid.