Walking through the adjacent fields, you can be sure to encounter several groups of women patching, connecting, stretching and weaving large gill-nets. This is not a web traditionally woven by women, but it is a skill that one must learn to survive.
At a time when fishermen in the rest of the country are switching to mechanical nets, West Bengal fishermen are still using hand-woven gill gills made by women. As a result of changes in fisheries, fishermen have switched to other types of nets and widened and attached heavy sinkers to their gill-nets.
The West Bengal Fishermen’s Union is trying to help these women and to address the many problems they face. Rice that is not ready for harvest is felled and temporarily stored, while farmers fear that the fields will be flooded before the storm ends its destruction. As they are moved to storm shelters, families in the village across the street from Amphan are desperately trying their best to protect the small families from what they can.
Death and devastation are part of the lives of the locals, whose dependence on fishing and agricultural livelihoods means that the risk of repeated storms and cyclones is not reduced. While a few have managed to pool some assets, the majority remain landless, homeless, and unemployed.
The Indian Meteorological Office (IMD) predicts that Amphan, when it comes ashore, will blow as a Category 4 storm, although its intensity will change as it swirls in the sea. As we turn on the press, the eye of the superstorm hovers over the coast of West Bengal, just a few hundred kilometres away, and the locals have already begun the countdown. If the storm had blown over, if not completely submerged by the sea, they would have been extinguished within hours.
At seven in the morning, the sky above us was black, the seas and rivers were gray, and the terror of the unknown rumbled as we cowered among the hundreds of storm shelters that the government had built in our area. This is quite unusual.