This part of Satjelia consists of 5 villages - Chargheri and 4 other villages called Lahiripur, Santigachi, Bidhan Colony and Porosmoni. The 5 villages have approx. 3500 people in total. These folk have been receiving help so far as a community. We found that it is almost socially impossible now to randomly adopt some of these villages and tell the others to disappear. There would be no plausible ground based on which we can choose one village over another. We believe that such arbitrary seggregation will make the task of PAKT even more difficult.
Pushed to our limits of decision making, we are now going ahead by 'adopting' all the 5 villages. However to support 3500 people with 'normal' rice consumption for weeks on end looks like a financially daunting prospect until we can fully assess the volume of funds we are likely to have.
Hence we have tried four exercises to maximise the food quantity per person per week:
- Identify the families with virtually no current income, prioritise their need and exclude the others: this exercise is done by the local group of volunteers at Chargheri but is yet to be substantiated. However it has taken the number of recipients down from 3500 to 2800 in the current week - we may need to further refine this method of "elimination by logical discrimination"
- Assume that people these families are not doing the physical work (as they have no employment) they did in normal life, and hence the minimum food requirement for sustenance may be lower than 'normal'.
- Cut down on cost of transport of rice from Kolkata by procuring rice after reaching Sonakhali / Jayanti and directly loading it on the steamer: this allows a cutdown on land transport cost of rice. However this increases the total 'start to end' time required for the team visiting from Kolkata and returning here. [They start at early morning - around 5 am - and reach home after midnight].
- Explore the possibility of making the food grain distribution a fortlightly affair instead of the current weekly one: This modality is not yet decided, but making it fortnightly obviously makes it more cost effective. However there can be other very practical issues that can prevent it from happening (e.g. doubling of quantities may mean that it is no more possible to complete purchase / transport / distribution in a single day's time frame)
With all but part 4 of the above steps implemented, 1400 kg still measures up to a meagre 500 gms for each of the 2800 persons over a week.
We hope to implement part 4 in the next trip.
The 'discrimination' based on part 1 was implemented on the 3rd visit. We still have no formal policy on this, and I doubt if there ever can be. It received mixed responses from the folk, and needs to be streamlined / fine-tuned over time supported by more information.
There are a few things that can get better hereon. The bund (or dyke) may get repaired for which work is underway. Rains may remove salinity and people may go back to the fields later in the year. More unforeseen employment opportunities can come up. There is a genuine expetaction in local people that within a few months administration will finally jump in to redeem this lot. They have been told that they can get home re-building loans as soon as within 3 months. Many of them can also get a loan to resume their trade a further couple of months later. However none of these infomation are first hand. All are from sources in Chargheri.
If some of these actually happen, these people can find a way to survive without anyone's help.