RSS relief work in Sunderbans

Sangh reaches where LF govt. failed

By Ranjit Roy
* Women blew conch-shells to welcome swayamsevaks

* Massive relief work by RSS in cyclone-affected Sunderbans
HINGALGANJ: It was a nightmarish experience for 50-odd swayamsevaks who were desperate to reach Hingalganj Jetighat criss-crossing other inaccessible riverine villages in the Sunderbans after Aila cyclone battered and ravaged Bengal’s famous archipelago of islands on May 25. The rivers Kalindi and Raimangal were turbulent and wind speed was not less than 60 km per hour even 24 hours after the cyclone lashed the Sunderbans.

They hired a large vessel with a capacity to carry about six tonnes relief materials for distributing among the cyclone-hit villagers separated from the mainland. Risking their lives, they finally reached Jetighat, Hemnagar, Mandirghat and Parghumta villages where thousands of marooned villagers had been awaiting the government relief for three days since the Aila blown away their hamlets. They had no food and drinking water during the past 72 hours.

Indeed, the marooned villagers had lost all hopes to survive as the area remained inaccessible due to swelling of Dasha river following the cyclone. The team of swayamsevaks, led by North 24 Pargana Zila Karyavah Shri Sukumar Vaidya, was the first batch of volunteers to reach them braving nature’s fury.

Initially, the starving villagers took swayamsevaks as state government relief employees and started to hurl abuses. However, when the distressed villagers discovered that they were RSS volunteers and risked their lives to bring them relief materials, they were simply over-joyed and begged pardon for their initial mistake. Women blew conch-shells to welcome the swayamsevaks in their mud houses. Packets of dry food, water pouches, milk powder and clothes brought by swayamsevaks were distributed with full cooperation of the distressed villagers.

This is the same area where the local CPI(M) MLA Gopal Gayen from Hingalganj was roughed up and the Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee received abuses from the relief-deprived villagers on June 2. The distressed villagers in Hingalganj block in the riverine Sunderbans made it amply clear that even in misery they had more respect for honest and hard-working swayamsevaks of the RSS than that for callous elected communist leaders, strutting about in the corridors of power.

Nearly a fortnight after the cyclone Aila hit West Bengal’s coast, thousands of people are still stranded in the Sunderbans. People with boats have left, but many have no choice but to stay. The human misery is telling. “I have nothing left. Utensils, pans, plates and glasses. Even the three bags of rice, we had saved from the last harvest, are gone. It would have been good had we been given a house to live in by the administration. What else do the poor people have, money? My daughter has to be married off, but there’s nothing left,” Purnima Mondal, resident of Dakshin Yogeshganj near Bangladesh border said. The villagers here are facing an added misery as robbers from Bangladesh are raiding border villages as they left their homes and sheltered in relief camps.

The RSS has a well-knit organisation in the Sunderbans under North and South 24 Parganas. There are ‘one teacher-one school’ establishments in 90 villages. Swayamsevaks of the two neighbouring districts have set up 32 relief camps and have been feeding about 30,000 cyclone-hit hapless villagers daily since May 26. The worst affected are the five blocks, Hasnabad, Najat, Sandeshkhali I & II and Hingalganj. Here 50 shakhas are affected due to large-scale inundation. Even after flooding, swayamsevaks are running two relief camps in Basantitala where cooked food is supplied to nearly 4,000 villagers daily.

Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh, Shri Manmohan Vaidya, visited several relief camps in the affected areas in Hasnabad block in North 24 Parganas on June 3 and took a stock of the grim situation prevailing there. He was told that the RSS volunteers braved the storm and rains and started distributing relief to distressed villagers at Basanti, Sonakhali, Kultuli, Gosaba, Pathankhali, Hemnagar and Mandirghat within six hours after the Aila lashed villages in the Sunderbans on May 25. As the villagers have lost everything and have no means to cook rice, the meals are being cooked at the RSS relief centres on the main land and then transported by country boats to relief camps set up by sawyamsevaks in far-flung Sunderban islands daily.

This mammoth relief operation requires huge amount of money. Shri Vaidya appealed to people all over the country to come forward at this time of crisis and shoulder some social responsibility by donating liberally to organisations like Bastuhara Sahayata Samiti, RSS Samaj Sewa Bharati, Friends of Tribal Society and Bharat Sevashram Sangh.


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