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An elderly man died and several children have been hit by the acute cold weather in Cooch Behar after being resettled in makeshift homes, following their immigration from Bangladesh to India last month.
Ishwarnarayan Roy (75) died of cold, his daughter-in-law said. Many complained that they were not provided with adequate facilities to combat the decreasing temperature of Cooch Behar, adjacent to the Himalayan mountain range.
The letters exchanged by the Foreign Secretaries of India and Bangladesh last June acknowledged the right of more than 50,000 state-less enclave-dwellers to choose their homeland. More than 900 “new Indians” left Bangladesh for India last month. While they were promised adequate amenities, the actual deliverables were never disclosed, they told The Hindu.
Cooch Behar records a severe drop in temperature at night. It is around 10 degrees Celsius with a moderate to high chill factor. Roy had no option but to sleep on the floor with four others. “We could not arrange a cot for him,” said his daughter-in-law Bithi Roy. “The roof is made of tin, so are the walls. It is unbearably cold at night and he could not bear it any more,” said Ms Roy.
Ishwarnarayan was the first of the new residents to pass away in a resettlement camp of erstwhile enclave dwellers. Over 900 people, including children, are settled in three camps in different subdivisions of Cooch Behar.
“The children are the worst hit. Many have fallen sick as we do not have adequate warm water,” said Jayaprakash Roy of Halidibari camp. “We are given a small stove to cook but no kerosene oil. We desperately need an oven and a gas connection to survive in the winter,” Mr. Roy said. The families are provided with two basic meals of rice, lentil soup and cooked vegetable curry along with limited financial support. The financial support is facilitated through the MGNREGS that ensures 100 days of wage employment.
“However, only one person is given work from each family,” said Hari Barman, who has nine members in his family. Mr. Barman said he was having a “serious problem” trying to make ends meet.
The new Indians are also concerned about the deadline to avail themselves of “free food.”
“Free food will be stopped from December 31 and ration cards issued. But we are not sure if we will have the money to buy food from the [ration] shops,” said Mr. Barman who belongs to the lowest income group.
From: The Hindu