The Hungry Tide

by Amitav Ghosh
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How are the difficulties faced by the common people living in the Sundarbans Delta described in The Hungry Tide?

The difficulties faced by the common people living in the Sundarbans are described in The Hungry Tide as a combination of government apathy and the harsh realities of nature.

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According to S’Daniel (Sir Daniel Hamilton), the greatest difficultly facing the people in the Sundarbans relates to the Forest Department. Of all the “hazards,” S’Daniel learned that the Sundarbans consider the Forest Department the biggest threat. The Forest Department can basically do whatever it wants with the land. It governs...

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According to S’Daniel (Sir Daniel Hamilton), the greatest difficultly facing the people in the Sundarbans relates to the Forest Department. Of all the “hazards,” S’Daniel learned that the Sundarbans consider the Forest Department the biggest threat. The Forest Department can basically do whatever it wants with the land. It governs the area “as its own kingdom.” The average person living in the Sundarbans has to constantly be on guard for this despotic and authoritarian agency.

The menace of the Forest Department relates to another hazard in the Sundarbans—that of tigers. When Nilima warns Kanai about the risk of tiger attacks, Kanai is dismissive. To demonstrate how serious tiger attacks are in the Sundarbans, Nilima tells him that over 200 people die each year due to tiger attacks. This means that at least every other day one human in the Sundarbans can be killed by a tiger.

The Forest Department doesn’t make the tiger situation less difficult. After a German naturalist opines that the tiger attacks are due to a lack of water, the Forest Department decides to create pools of water for the supposedly thirsty tigers. Nilima emphasizes the irony of the Forest Department’s concern. The thirsty human beings don’t arouse the department’s compassion but the thirsty tigers do. Ultimately, drinking water doesn’t stop the attacks. Taking into account the department and the tigers, it's possible to describe the difficulties of the people living in the Sundarbans as the result of a harsh environment and an uncaring administrative body.

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