Darjeeling landslide: BJP MP seeks inter-ministerial rehab team

Howrah, July 7 (IANS) Claiming that over two lakh people have been displaced by landslides that ravaged Darjeeling district following two days of incessant heavy rainfall early this month, BJP MP S.S. Ahluwalia on Tuesday said he has urged the Centre to send an inter-ministerial team to plan for rehabilitation of the region.

Ahluwalia said the destruction in the hilly region was far more than the estimates made by West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee government. He also warned that the toll in the disaster was likely to go up further

“The state administration has put the toll at 34, with around one lakh people being displaced. But according to our reports from the ground, more than two lakh people have been affected,” the Lok Sabha member from Darjeeling said on the sidelines of a Bharatiya Janata Party event here.

“Roads in places like Tingling, Lava and Mirik have been destroyed and there are many remote places which still remain inaccessible. We have not been able to reach them. With people still missing or untraceable, the toll is likely to go up,” he said.

According to the district administration, 35 bodies have been recovered till Tuesday, while eight people were still on the missing-list.

Ahluwalia also criticised the state government’s claims of “zero loss to agriculture” in the region and said a central inter-ministerial team was essential to chalk out rehabilitation plans.

“The Mamata Banerjee government has claimed that there is zero loss to agriculture, but we have visited people engaged in cultivation of ginger, turmeric, flowers, and other herbs and spices… their crops have been completely destroyed.

“I have twice talked to union Home Minister Rajnath Singh seeking an inter-ministerial team that will assess the damage and chalk out an in-depth plan for the rehabilitation of the entire region. The home minister said he can send such a team only if the state government writes to him. So, I have asked the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration to talk with the state government in this regard,” said Ahluwalia.

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