SHALLLA, Sunamganj- The morale of devastated people in low-lying deluge-hit Haor areas got a big boost following the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina here today, observers and victims told BSS.
They said haor people used to endure small blows from nature almost every alternate year but this year's flash flood appeared to be the worst in recent memories severely affecting their coping mechanisms.
The deluge nearly damaged entirely their annually produced single crop, the boro rice, which is also their staple and cash crop, lowering their confidence level to the minimal level.
"We were swimming in the 'waters of frustration' due to loss of food and livelihoods. We could hardly see any ray of hope until next year," Mohim Das, a 91-year old, said.
But, he said, the immediate psychological impact from Sheikh Hasina's visit was equal or perhaps more important than the amount of relief package she committed for affected people.
"The Prime Minister came as the blessing to rescue us from the ordeal . . . I saw some of neighbors smiling for the first time after the flash flood hit haor areas early April (and) possibly, I also smiled first time in a month," the nonagenarian said.
Sheikh Hasina visited remotest Shalla, one of worst hit areas and 70-km off Sunamganj town, to see for herself the plight of flood affected people while she told them that she herself and her government would provide all possible support to the flood victims.
The supports include waiver of the interest of agriculture loan for certain period, distribution of fertilizer, seeds and other agriculture inputs, distribution of rice and cash, subsidy on electricity, and to take a long term plan to turn Haor areas as an economic resource hub.
She also urged Haor people not to be upset as the country has sufficient food stocks and the ability to overcome the effect of the deluge. Lokman Hakim, a victim of Sultanpur, said they were very happy with the premier's visit. When asked why? He replied: "her visit has not only proved her love and empathy for the sufferers but also reflected that she can understand the sorrow of general people and can recognize".
Lokman said the deluge exposed her to such a situation which now required him to virtually "survive on my mother's monthly allowance she receives as a Freedom Fighter" as he could not harvest a single kilogram of rice from his vast cultivation.
"Haor people do really need serious help- short term and long term both- from all . . . but the most important part I would say from her (premier's) visit is -- it has bolstered our broken confidence," said Lokman.
The only exception was Prodip, 25, of Dirai. While travelling on an engine boat towards Shalla together, he said the Prime Minister made Haor people happy, proud and optimistic to fight on. But hardly could he believe that cash incentive and relief would rarely help people to survive in the long run.
"Relief operations should be stopped since a meager portion of those would reach the real victims," he claimed.
Among other promises, the Prime Minister distributed 38 kg of rice and Taka 1,000 cash among victims to absorb their ongoing economic shock.
Bina Das and Jharna of Bahara Union said the relief materials they received today would help their families to a great extent. In fact, they required both as they didn't have any food to cook and any cash to buy other essential commodities.
They both prayed for Sheikh Hasina and wished her long life.
Early monsoon in neighboring Cherapunji in cross-border Indian Territory led to the flash flood in northeastern swathes of downstream Bangladesh and damaged Boro crop days before the staple's harvest.
As many as 850,088 families of 62 upazilas under Sunamganj, Sylhet, Habiganj, Moulvi Bazar, Netrokona, Kishoreganj and Bharhmanbaria district suffered from it, official statistics show.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)