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     Volume 4 Issue 33 | February 11, 2005 |

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Photo Feature

As Cold As It Gets

Rafique Sarker

Thousands of poor in the northern districts are still struggling to recover from the effect of monga. During October and November they remained jobless. Moreover, this winter they found themselves caught in the snare of the two consecutive cold waves.

The first spell of the cold wave started from January, 19 and lasted till January 24. It was followed by the second one from January 25 to 27, paralysing the live of the people, mainly the poor in 8 northern districts.

Mercury dropped down to 8-degree celcious during the first spell, while 11°5 degree was recorded during the second. Although the temperature in the first cold wave was lower, the second one was more debilitating as it was slammed in with 9 milimetres of rainfall.

Although no one was reported to have died, for many of the elderly as well as children with bronchitis, asthma and pneumonia the spells of cold wave had a crippling effect. Absence of worm clothes, food and medicines made the situation even worse.

The people living along the basin of the Teesta, Dharla, Bramma-putra, three major rivers in the region, are the worst sufferers. As about 65 percent people in the region remain below the poverty line, for them it is a tough hurdle to manage three meals every day, let alone worm clothes during the winter.

In the northern regions, winter is followed by monga. Normally the job crisis for the day-labourers in the region remains acute during this season. Farmers do not employ labourers in the fields until late November and early December when aman is ready for harvest.

Sufferings of day labourers in the regions know no bounds. Many of the families pass their days without two meals a day. Starvation too is not unheard of. Those who have no other options, resort to local moneyed men and are forced to borrow money at high interest rates. Every winter, government and non-government organizations distribute worm clothes among the poor. This time around, the government through Food and Disaster Management Ministry distributed about 3000 pieces of blankets on an average for each of the 8 northern districts under Dinajpur and Rangpur regions.

Compared with the need, the volume of relief clothes was very little. Many of the poor termed the relief clothes distribution programme as "merely an eyewash," while others called it an effort to produce some image-boosting footages for television. According to a meteorologist of Rangpur Meteorological Office, cold wave sweeps frequently over eight northern districts for geographical causes. He said, " During winter North-Westerly wind blows from the Himalayas in India. Since the 8 northern districts under Rangpur and Dinajpur are only about 250 km away from the mountain, the wind sweeps over the regions with intense coldness."



Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain

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