IMRAN AHMED SIDDIQUI
|Employees of the Nandigram block development office take a nap. Picture by Biswarup Dutta|
Nandigram, March 24: Ten days have passed since the police firing, but Nandigram still bears traces of the fury that rocked the area. The roads remain dug-up and villages cut-off. The local administration, too, is missing.
“Nobody knows who is running Nandigram these days. It has become an island inside Bengal,” Ashok Sarkar, the block development officer of Nandigram, told The Telegraph.
Primary schools are shut, post offices are not operating as postmen don’t want to enter the villages and development work has come to a halt. The police station, too, wears a deserted look — no complaints have been registered since March 14, the day Nandigram erupted, except FIRs filed by police related to the violence.
“I do not know when we will be able to restore normality here. The situation is very volatile. Even after the assurance that land would not be acquired in Nandigram for industry, villagers are still feeling threatened,” he added.
With dug-up roads disrupting communication, supplies of ration and other essential commodities for below-poverty-line families have also stopped.
There are 10 gram panchayats under Nandigram but most offices are under lock and key and gram pradhans in the affected areas have shifted, said Sarkar, adding: “Our first priority now is to supply ration and other things to the BPL families.”
The local market that opens twice a week has stopped functioning, resulting in the prices of foodgrain and other essential commodities spiralling.
“People from villages used to buy foodgrain and other items from the market. Prices of vegetables and essential commodities have now started shooting up,” an officer of Nandigram police station said.
Sitting in his office, Sarkar looks puzzled. Pointing to the grilles and windows of the BDO office, broken by villagers on March 14, Sarkar said nobody had visited the office since it re-opened three days ago. The BDO office was ransacked by a violent mob that had tried to set it on fire.
Although there are 40 employees, only a handful have turned up. A battalion of the state armed police has been occupying a portion of the building since March 14.
“Roads have to be repaired first so that the snapped communication system can be restored. How long will this stalemate continue?” asked a clerk at the BDO office. “In fact, life has become a hell for us.”