As Amphan ripped through the Sunderbans before heading towards Kolkata on the night of May 20, Nobel laureate Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee remained glued to the screen, tracking the fierce cyclone from Boston. Distressed how life in the Sunderbans had completely been wrecked, he called up his friends and urged that something had to be done for the islanders for their immediate relief.
“I have been watching videos and in some areas, devastation is total. In the short run, we need to figure out how to house and feed the people, but in the medium run, we need to think of how to help them to put back their lives together,” Banerjee replied to TOI on an email. “Their cow sheds or mango trees may be gone and they have no obvious way to get them back. There are programs, like Bandhan’s THP, that have been shown to help the destitute get back on their feet and we need to think of them for the medium run.”
Banerjee’s efforts did not stop at that. Liver Foundation West Bengal (LFWB), with support from the Nobel laureate, has started community kitchens in the Sunderbans to feed thousands who have been rendered homeless, . “I got a call from Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee around 7 that evening, when we were in the thick of the cyclone. He asked if we were aware of what was happening in the Sunderbans,” said hepatologist Abhijit Chowdhury, general secretary at the Liver Foundation that has had a long association with Banerjee. “He sounded deeply disturbed and asked if LFWB could to something to alleviate the sufferings of the people in the Sunderbans.”
The Liver Foundation was already running community kitchens in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Purulia and Birbhum during the lockdown to feed tea garden workers, migrants, the poor and the homeless. Following the Amphan, the organisation has been running its kitchens at Narayanpur, GPlot and Kultali in the Sunderbans. “We are feeding about 1,000 people each from these kitchens. How can people fight Covid on empty stomachs?” said Partha Sarathi Mukherjee, project director at LFWB.
Among those extending help to the affected in the Sunderbans are doctor associations, who are either distributing relief or holding health camps. “Going by chief minister’s guidance, Indian Medical Association (IMA) has been organising health camps in several affected places, such as Hingalganj, Sandeshkhali, Gosaba and Patharpratima,” said Santanu Sen, IMA state secretary. Organisations, like Association of Health Service Doctors, West Bengal Doctor’s Forum, Medical Service Centre and Service Doctors’ Forum, have also been helping out with relief materials and medicines in the Sunderbans as well as villages in North 24 Parganas.
Source: Times of India