Eight days after floods ravaged Kolhapur and Sangli districts, National Highway 4 that links Mumbai with Bengaluru – the lifeline of these flood-ravaged districts — was partially opened for traffic on Monday.Authorities said the death toll arising from flood or rain-related accidents across western Maharashtra has risen to 43, with two unidentified male bodies found in Sangli on Sunday, and one more death recorded in Kolhapur. Pune Divisional Commissioner Dr. Deepak Mhaisekar said 4.74 lakh people in the five flood-hit districts of Sangli, Kolhapur, Satara, Pune and Solapur had been shifted to safety. “Of these, 2.47 lakh people were from Kolhapur, while 1.85 lakh perople were evacuated from Sangli,” he said. With the partial opening of the NH4, authorities allowed heavy vehicles in the direction of Belagavi, while traffic from Pune to Kolhapur was heavily restricted owing to the still-high floodwater levels on a considerable stretch of the highway.Green corridor formedOnly heavy vehicles like tankers and trucks from Pune district ferrying essential supplies like oil, milk and vegetables for the flood-hit citizens were allowed to pass. “We have prepared a green corridor for all relief vehicles from Pune and Satara to the flood-hit districts,” said Dr. Abhinav Deshmukh, Superintendent of Police, Kolhapur, adding that it would take another 48 hours for regular traffic to resume along the NH4. The opening of the highway on Monday today morning a little after 6 a.m. came as a relief to nearly 15,000 vehicles and their drivers who were stranded for over a week.Section 37 (1) imposedMeanwhile, the Kolhapur district administration has imposed Section 37 (1) of the Bombay Police Act, 1951 which gives it power to prohibit gatherings for prevention of disorder in the flood-affected region. This has raked up a controversy with the opposition alleging it to be an attempt to suppress the people’s anger against the government’s mismanagement in flood-hit areas.Additional District Collector Sanjay Shinde issued the orders which will be applicable from August 12 to 24, to maintain law and order situation in view of upcoming religious festivals and Independence Day, and possible agitations by various organisations and political parties. Congress leader and former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said that the order, coming at a time when water is receding and people will gather for aid, shows the intellectual bankruptcy of the government. “This is nothing but an attempt to suppress people’s anger against the mismanagement of the flood relief work,” he said.In another relief, the water level of Krishna river near Sangli’s Irwin Bridge receded by more than 3 feet, to flow at 50 ft., though still above the danger mark of 45 ft. However, Dr. Mhaisekar said as the inflow in the Almatti dam was still high – 6,11,000 cusecs – it was taking time for the floodwaters to recede despite the present discharge being increased to 5,70,000 cusecs.The Pune Divisional Commissioner said that 30 villages in seven talukas in the two-districts were still heavily waterlogged. As of now 135 roads and more than 60 bridges in both districts remain closed for traffic.“The villages and areas in the right side of Kolhapur district like Kuthwad, Rajapur Kurundwad in Shirol taluk are the worst-hit…our relief teams are still engaged in delivering food and other essential items to the people stranded in these parts. We do not expect the floodwaters in this area to recede anytime before six days,” said a senior NDRF official. With rescue operations gradually drawing to a close, defence officials 21 relief teams from the Army would be de-requisitioned. Presently 105 relief teams comprising of NDRF, SDRF, Army, Navy and Coastguard units are engaged in relief work in the two districts. The receding floodwaters have left behind veritable rivers of thick mud in their wake – as people formed cleanliness teams to clear out the debris of mud. While local youths formed teams and undertook relief measures, cleanliness drives were held at government offices like the District Collectorate at Sangli. A sombre spirit prevailed in the region on the occasion of Id, which was celebrated in austere fashion. Sangli’s Idgah Maidan, a traditional spot for Id celebrations, wore a desolate look with its water-logged grounds. The day was marked with a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude towards the NDRF, Army and Navy with women tying rakhis to the jawans for their indefatigable spirit.Gani Ajarekar, chairman of the Kolhapur-based Muslim Board, said in the wake of the destruction caused by the floods, community members had decided to shun the practice of sacrificing goats and instead undertake relief work for the flood-afflicted by serving them with free meals and medicines.“We have decided to give money normally collected for sacrificial offering towards flood relief efforts,” Mr. Ajarekar said.The floods proved a great leveller as several Muslim communities and individuals, not only from the flood-hit districts, but also from other parts of the region including Pune, came forward with generous help for the victims of the deluge. In Kolhapur and Sangli, some madrasas and other institutions opened up their doors to shelter the flood-afflicted.With life limping back to normalcy, Kolhapur city saw massive queues of two-wheelers outside petrol pumps since early morning, with people braving the drizzle and thronging for hours to get precious fuel.Withdrawal of cash from ATMs meanwhile, continued to pose problems with more than half of the ATMs – 334 of a combined 647 in both districts, still in a dysfunctional state.