STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
Malda, 14 July

Thousands of inundated villagers of North Malda are now trying hard to seek refuge rather than concentrate on the forthcoming panchayat polls. The situation has taken a grim turn after an embankment on the Fulohar river at Gobrahaat area of Daulatnagar gram panchayat in the Harischandrapur-II block breached yesterday inundating Hatichhapa and Doulatnagar villages, reportedly rendering at least 20,000 people homeless.
The District Magistrate, Mr Godala Kiran Kumar, who at once rushed to the spot, witnessed the ire of the people who fell victims to natural calamity little before the panchayat polls. The villagers demonstrated in front of Mr Kumar, the Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) Mr Chanchal Palash Sengupta and Harischandrapur-II Block Development Officer (BDO) Mr Koushik Pal, demanding adequate tarpaulins to cover their heads.
The administration sent 1,000 tarpaulin sheets primarily today but in the face of the protest from villagers they were unable to distribute them. The waterlogged people claimed that at least 3,000 families were waterlogged and took refuge on Daulatnagar embankment. "Merely 1,000 tarpaulins won’t serve the purpose," one of them said.
Later, another 1,400 tarpaulins were sent for those families. Villagers also alleged that the negligence of the administration resulted in the collapse of the embankment. "If it had been repaired in time, the collapse could have been avoided," another villager said.
The CPI-M Opposition leader of Harischandrapur-II panchayat samiti, Mr Sudhir Jadav, alleged that the administration could not send dry food for the inundated villagers even 24 hours after the embankment collapsed.
Sources said that there were at least 25 to 30 small villages at Hatichhapa and Daulatnagar which were all inundated. Even the ‘Gobrahaat’, where a large market is held every Monday, was badly affected by the Fulohar damaging tons of food grains stored by traders.
250 families primarily sought refuge at Daulatnagar high school but owing to the alleged lack of lavatories they have again returned to the embankment, sources informed. Meanwhile, the flood victims alleged that the administration provided them with only five small boats which were not enough for their transportation as the entire area has been de-linked from the other villages following the flood.
Meanwhile, at least four polling booths (No. 83, 84, 85 and 86) of Daulatnagar village have virtually gone under water. Another two polling booths at Hatichhapa village too have been inundated. Booth no. 73, 74 and 75 of Islampur village are also under water now.
The DM, Mr Kumar, said that 2,400 tarpaulins were distributed among the flood-hit villagers. Five relief camps have been opened. Dry food is being distributed among the villagers, he informed. At the same time, he conceded that there had been want of more tarpaulins in the locality.
On the other hand, 20 small villages of Dobakhoksan village of Chaknagar gram panchayat in the Gazole block have been inundated affecting around 8,000 villagers after the embankment of Tangon river collapsed at least in two places. Crops sowed in 4,000 hector land have also been damaged, sources said. 
The Gazole BDO, Mr Shoubhik Mukherjee, said: "The 14-km long embankment on Tangon had large pores at two places through which water entered into the villages.
Five polling stations have been waterlogged. Flood victims are being removed to safe places using seven boats.