Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday praised Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for trying hard to fight off the disastrous impact of super cyclone Amphan at a time when the State, much like the entire country, was suffering from the impact of the corona pandemic.
The Prime Minister who jointly conducted an aerial survey of the South Bengal districts of North and South 24 Parganas — to weigh up the extent of devastation left behind by the severe cyclone — along with the Chief Minister and State Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar later said after an administrative meeting that the Union Government would for the time being make an advance assistance of Rs 1,000 crore for immediate relief works.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Modi on Friday evening announced an advance financial assistance of Rs 500 crore for Odisha after an aerial survey of areas hit by cyclone Amphan and holding a review meeting with Governor Ganeshi Lal and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
Modi, accompanied by the Odisha Chief Minister, took the aerial tour of cyclone-hit districts such as Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Balasore, Jajpur and Mayurbhanj for about 90 minutes.
“For the immediate need, the Government of India announces Rs 500 crore for Odisha, as a measure in advance. The Centre will further help the Odisha government and make rest of the arrangements to come out of this crisis, after the complete survey and the formation of a rehabilitation plan,” Prime Minister Modi said.
The cyclone caused large-scale damage to infrastructure, public and private property in North and South 24 Parganas, East and West Midnapore, Kolkata, Howrah and Hooghly districts.
“The Bengal Government together with the Central agencies has done a good job under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee to fight the crisis in the wake of cyclone Amphan,” the Prime Minister said announcing “an advance interim assistance of Rs 1,000 crore for the State.”
Reminding that “the ‘mantras’ of fighting corona and fighting a cyclone are mutually contradictory to the extent that to fight the pandemic one has to stay indoors and maintain social distancing while to evade the impact of cyclone people have to move out immediately to the safer places,” --- which made tackling the two crisis all the more difficult --- the Prime Minister said that the “Centre will work shoulder-to-shoulder with the State Government for its reconstruction…”
“We will stand by the State Government and help it within all the prescribed norms… In this time of distress and despair the entire the entire country is with the people of Bengal,” he said.
A “detailed survey will be conducted of the damage to agriculture, power and other sectors besides damage to the houses,” he said announcing Rs 2 lakh for the next of the kin of those who have died in the cyclone and Rs 50,000 for those injured.
Congress leader of Lok Sabha Adhir Chowdhury, however, wondered whether “a peanut of an amount of Rs 1,000 will be able to take care of such large-scale destruction as this. They will need thousands of crores to rebuild Bengal and the Centre should think in that direction. Rs 1,000 crore is nothing.”
Mamata who was with Modi during the one hour chopper ride later said “we saw large parts Namkhana, Kakdweep, Hingalganj, Basirhat and other areas. There is nothing left in these areas. The damage has been so extensive. In such circumstances when he (Prime Minister) has seen things for himself I will not make any demand. Rather I will ask them to send the assistance --- whatever they decide to send --- immediately because we will have to start reconstruction work immediately. We have to reconstruct tens of embankments which have been washed away … as these are coastal areas water is gushing in and villages have gone under water…”
Her claim to declare the calamity as a national disaster found support for the opposition with the 22 outfits extending sympathy with the State urge the Centre to “immediately declare this as a national calamity and substantially help the states in facing the impact of this disaster.”
Union Minister Babul Supriyo along with his ministerial colleagues Debashree Chowdhury, Dharmendra Pradhan and PC Sarangi too conducted an aerial survey of the area in a separate chopper.
Meanwhile upward revising the death toll sources at State Secretariat Nabanna said that 86 people had perished in the cyclone adding the number could further go up in subsequent days. Out of these 19 people have died in Kolkata. Among the dead included victims of wall collapse, electrocution, tree fall, drowning, snake bite, and even panic heart attack sources said.
In Kolkata alone more than 5,500 mammoth trees were uprooted and most of them were still lying on the roads blocking major city thoroughfares and blocking the traffic. About 36 lakh people had been directly affected by the cyclone. Another 65 lakh could have been indirectly affected by the cyclone sources said quoting preliminary findings sources. About 3.5 lakh houses have collapsed sources added.
Cut to Kolkata. With no power and water people in many areas of the eastern metro descended on the streets blocking roads and shouting slogans prompting former Kolkata Mayor and Chief Administrator Firhad Hakim to call an immediate meeting of various arms of the Government and agencies to facilitate restoration works.
“I don’t have a magic wand with me. It will take time but I can assure you that in a week’s time we will be able to restore most of the services. But the people will have to realise that such a cyclone had hit Kolkata more in than 200 years. So we could not expect this kind of damage. It is not easy to cut and remove 5,500 or more trees which have fallen on power lines and cable wires.
Elsewhere, Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh called upon the Central Government not to send funds to the State Government and deposit them directly in the Jan Dhan accounts of the affected people.
“Like it happened in the case of other Central funds which were misappropriated this time too they will go to the wrong hands if sent to the State Government. So we want the Centre to send the relief package directly to the people’s account.”