The gigantic operation to transport tens of thousands of East Pakistan refugees to new camps in India is gathering momentum.
The gigantic operation to transport tens of thousands of East Pakistan refugees to new camps in India is gathering momentum. Despite the size of the problem, and despite the opposition of many refugees to any move, special trains are transporting the Pakistanis to a desolate are of central India where special camps have been prepared for them.
It's becoming a race against time. Monsoon rains threaten to bring new outbreaks of disease to the makeshift, overcrowded camps near the border and around Calcutta. The cholera epidemic seems under control. But now it's an outbreak of killer pneumonia that is causing alarm.
Visnews cameramen Prem Prakash and Durgadas Chatterji have been filming the refugee route to the new camps -- starting at Hasanabad, two miles form the East Pakistan border. The station has been virtually taken over by the refugees. Crowded regular trains take them to Barasat, near Calcutta.
Here, it's a case of take the refugee specials to central India or starve. Relief officials threaten to withhold food supplies unless the Pakistanis move. Authorities also want to close down the nearby Sahara Camp -- currently containing the biggest concentration of 35,000 refugees -- because it threatens safety at nearby Dum Dum Airport.
SYNOPSIS: The vast operation to transport East Pakistani refugees to central India is underway. For many, their journey starts here, at Hasanabad -- just two, miles from the East Pakistan border. The refugees have entirely taken over the railway station.
Three trains pulled out of Hasanabad on Sunday. They were regular services -- with the refugees hanging on by the woodwork to face an uncertain destination and an uncertain future. The spectre of disease still hovers wherever refugees congregate in their overcrowded, insanitary camps. Though the cholera epidemic, believed to have claimed as many as five thousand victims, has been contained, a new killer pneumonia outbreak is causing alarm.
Barasat Junction is fifteen miles from Calcutta. From here, twenty-thousand refugees have already been shipped to areas of central India. Many Pakistanis are reluctant to leave. If they don't go, there's the threat that relief rations will be withheld.
Not far away is Sahara Camp, currently containing the biggest concentration of thirty-five thousand refugees. State authorities want to close it. They say it's menace to aircraft flying into Calcutta's nearby Dum Dum airport. Even worse, the camp is in a low-lying area, dotted with stagnant water holes. It is likely to turn into one vast swamp once the monsoon rains set in.
At Barasat on Sunday afternoon, an early monsoon shower gave refugees a taste of conditions ahead. There are fears that the deadly pneumonia outbreak will intensify once the rains set in. So it's race against time to move the refugees to new camps in central India.