West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday blamed the Centre for the adversities in the flood-prone Ghatal region while she conducted an aerial survey of Medinipur. The CM also said she would send a high-level team to New Delhi to pursue the union government in approving a long-stalled master plan to tackle the annual deluge here.
Three rivers from the west, Kasai, Shilabati and Dwarakeswar, flow through Ghatal in Paschim Medinipur district. And from the other side come the rivers Rupnarayan, New Kasai and various small tributaries. When all, or some, of these rivers, are fed by rain, the area gets inundated.
“The Centre is not clearing the Ghatal master plan. I am asking MP Dev and leaders of Medinipur to go and meet the central irrigation minister on this. We are doing whatever we have to do," said the CM. “This is a man-made flood."
In the 1950s, Left MP Nikunja Behari Chowdhury raised the plight of Ghatal in Parliament. A committee was formed that proposed a Ghatal master plan. A foundation stone-laying ceremony was carried out in 1983 by West Bengal’s Left government. The plan was to carry out regular dredging and desiltation of the rivers in the region to save Ghatal from the flooding. In 1993 the Ghatal Master Plan Rupayan Sangram Committee was formed including locals.
After the Mamata Banerjee government came to power, the plan was taken up by her irrigation minister Manas Bhunia. The master plan panel also put its demand in front of the administration, and got a clearance from the Ganga Flood Control Committee. The planned budget initially was Rs 2,200 crore, but after the GFCC sanction it came down to Rs 1,240 crore. At the time, the rule was that 75 per cent of the money would come from the Centre and the remaining 25 per cent from the state. This formula later changed to a fifty-fifty one.
“After the GFCC clearance, the technical committee clearance too came. We have made several submissions since 2015 but nothing has happened. The Centre is blaming the state and the state blaming the Centre. We, therefore, will again urge the state government to form an all-party delegation and we should together approach the Centre for this," said Ghatal Master Plan Rupayan Sangram Committee’s joint secretary Narayan Nayak.
The Bengal government has started some work on the initiative with dredging being carried out in various rivers. But locals say with the master plan not being implemented, their problems persist.
“I raised this issue in the Rajya Sabha. Mamata Banerjee has written letters several times, but nothing happened. The Centre’s attitude has put us in a quandary," said Manas Bhunia, now West Bengal’s water resources investigation and development minister, and former Rajya Sabha member.
Mamata on Tuesday also distributed relief materials among locals and instructed the administration to ramp up countermeasures.