West Bengal: Congress raises issues of erosion, cattle smuggling and unfinished airport in Malda

Highlighting issues faced by locals, Congress demands accountability as PM gears up for West Bengal rally

Screen grab of PM Modi arriving in West Bengal from @narendramodi/X
Screen grab of PM Modi arriving in West Bengal from @narendramodi/X


Why did the prime minister do nothing to prevent river erosion in Malda and what happened to the Malda airport, the Congress asked on Friday, 26 April as Narendra Modi heads to the West Bengal district for campaigning.

Posting a series of questions on X, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh also raised the issue of cattle smuggling in the area.

The prime minister is scheduled to address a poll rally in Malda on Friday.

"Questions for PM as he visits Malda in West Bengal: Why has the PM done nothing to prevent river erosion in Malda? What about Malda airport? What has the PM done to halt the illegal smuggling of cattle," Ramesh asked in a post on X.

He said thousands of families in Malda district suffer due to their land being eroded by the Ganga and Fulahar rivers.

BJP MLA from Englishbazar town Sreerupa Mitra Chaudhary had written to the prime minister in 2023 to seek an appointment to apprise him about the problem, he said. She highlighted the fact that affected residents are mostly from the Scheduled Castes or Other Backward Classes, and requested Rs 10,000 crore to conduct anti-erosion works, Ramesh added.

Most of the district lies in the region of the Farakka Barrage, operated by the Central government and is therefore the responsibility of the "Modi Sarkar", he said.

"Ten years after coming to power, and despite generous on-paper allocations to Namami Gange, why has the Modi Sarkar not made a single intervention to protect Malda's Scheduled Caste and OBC families from the rampant problem of river erosion," he asked.

Ramesh also alleged that the Modi government had neglected the Malda airport for almost 10 years.

"The state government had already built a runway by the time the PM came to power in 2014. However, flight services are yet to start. Airports would increase business and trade opportunities - especially for perishable goods like Malda's famous mangoes - and improve access to medical services in the district," he said.

The BJP had assured the people of Malda that they would provide small aircraft services, and Airports Authority of India officials visited the site multiple times but the airport still remains closed, Ramesh claimed.

The runway, he contended, is being used by people from surrounding neighbourhoods for their morning walk. Locals fear the airport will eventually fall into disrepair because of the Modi government's apathy, he said.

"What has the Prime Minister done in the last ten years to halt the illegal smuggling of cattle into Bangladesh," Ramesh said using the hashtag "#ChuppiTodoPradhanMantriji".

Noting that cattle smuggling across the Bangladesh border has emerged as a key issue in recent years, one often raked up by the PM himself, the Congress general secretary alleged that Modi fails to mention that cattle smuggling is only a reality because of the failure of the BJP administrations at the Centre and various states.

"At the national level, the BSF and the Customs Department are responsible for aiding and abetting the smuggling mafia. At the state level, the origin of most of the cattle is BJP-ruled states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. State police and administration turning a blind eye to smuggling of cattle out of these states is the root cause of the issue," he claimed.

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