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11 Jun 2018

Cyclone shelter windfall hope Govt plans to let out Aila havens

A cyclone shelter in Ramnagar, East Midnapore. Picture by Jahangir Badsa 
ANSHUMAN PHADIKAR , TT, Jun 11, 2018, Tamluk: Over 50 cyclone shelters built to shelter the storm-affected in Bengal could soon yield a "windfall".

The state government has decided to let out the shelters for social events to raise funds for their maintenance.

The shelters were constructed at a cost of Rs 4 crore each in the wake of cyclone Aila in 2009. They were funded by the central government.

The shelters in North and South 24 Parganas, and East Midnapore, ready since 2014, have been lying largely unused and locked, except during floods.

The financial burden of maintaining each shelter is borne by the local panchayat samiti.

"For the last two years, these shelters have been languishing. I have seen three within my area. They are useful once a year during the floods but not otherwise," said Nitai Charan Sar, the outgoing chief of Ramnagar Panchayat Samiti in East Midnapore where one of the sprawling three-storey structures have come up.

"We have to pay the sweeper and caretaker out of our own funds. The costs come to Rs 10,000 a month," Sar added.

Each of these shelters boasts large halls, kitchens, bathrooms, submersible pumps and lightning conductors, making them not only safety bulwarks but ideal locations for social gatherings as well.

East Midnapore disaster management officer Mrityunjoy Haldar said: "The principal secretary of the disaster management department has written to us saying these shelters shouldn't lie idle, as they have been over the past few years."

State disaster management authorities have written to district officials asking them to form a local committee for each of these shelters. Each panel should have at least seven members, comprising a block officer, a gram panchayat member, a panchayat samiti member and representatives of NGOs. The committee will come up with ways for profitable use of the shelters.

Around 50 more shelters are under construction in East Midnapore's Digha, Ramnagar, Contai, Khejuri and Haldia.

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