West Bengal Vs Centre: Will Bitter Politics Impact Rehabilitation in the Aftermath of Cyclone Amphan?

After effect of Cyclone Amphan in Kolkata | Image - Twitter

As the whole nation fights the grave challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and the associated financial implications of a long nationwide lockdown, West Bengal has been faced with another challenge which has proven equally devastating and damaging. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that West Bengal is picking up the pieces after it was hit by a cyclone of great intensity and power. The regions of the state which have been impacted most adversely are in the southern parts of the state. The widespread destruction caused by the cyclone has so far caused a death toll of 100 but these numbers are surely going to rise once authorities are in a position to access the actual damage unleashed by the Amphan cyclone.

As West Bengal is busy picking up the pieces after a devastating cyclone which has certainly brought about unprecedented damage, many from the state feel that despite the arrival of such a great calamity, the rest of India has not paid adequate attention to the state when it needed the most. People from the state argue that the national media has been doing little to create awareness about the intensity of the damage and the Union government is to be blamed for not yet declaring cyclone Amphan a national disaster.

A list of noted academicians issued a joint statement wherein they had noted, “ We, from West Bengal and Orissa, are shocked and pained to see Indian national media almost ignore the trail of destruction Amphan has left behind.”

Inadequate Relief Package Issued by the Centre Despite Massive Devastation Caused by Amphan

The initial response that was given out by the Central government after the devastation caused by Amphan was assessed at the preliminary scale was a modest package of Rs 1,000 crore. The initial package was seen as a mockery of the intensity of the calamity and was seen as heavily inadequate given the scale of devastation.

Mamata Banerjee
PM Narendra Modi meets West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata.
Image:Twitter [ FILE PHOTO]
On Friday, PM Modi had conducted an arial survey of the devastation along with West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. Prime Minister Modi also added that Rs 500 crore would immediately be released to Odisha to overcome the impact of the cyclone.  He also said that Rs 2 lakh would be given to the kin of the victims and Rs 50,000 each would be offered to those with injuries. 

A team was also promised to be sent by the Centre to conduct a detailed survey of the extent of destruction that has ben unleashed by cyclone Amphan. Prime Minister Modi also promised that the Centre will address all aspects related to the rehabilitation and reconstruction in the state and said that the Centre would stand with the state in these testing times.

PM Modi’s Visit to West Bengal After Cyclone Amphan 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a visit to Bengal and Odisha to conduct an aerial survey in order to access the intensity of the damage caused due to cyclone Amphan. This is the first time that the prime minister travelled outside Delhi in nearly three months. 

He said, “We are battling the pandemic on one hand and on the other, there is a cyclone in some parts of the nation. 

Dealing with the pandemic requires social distancing whereas battling the cyclone requires people to move to safer areas. Despite these contradictions, West Bengal is fighting well.”

It is heart wrenching to see how houses were wiped out and low lying  areas were the worst affected in these torrential rains unleashed by cyclone Amphan which made a landfall near Sagar Islands in South 24 Paraganas district on Wednesday.

The storm was so powerful that it snapped power lines, blew away house roofs, ruptured cars and trees and wrecked unprecedented havoc. The destruction caused is unprecedented in recent public memory. It had left the Kolkata airport completely flooded but it began operations from Thursday noon. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vibist came after West Bengal CM Mamata Banarjee had reached out to him and requested him to make a visit to the state. The damage assessment teams are likely to submit their reports in a week’s time.

Opposition Parties Want Cyclone Amphan to be Declared a National Calamity

Assessing the extent of damage caused by the cyclone, 22 parties from the Opposition have come forward and issued a joint resolution asking the Centre to declare cyclone Amphan a national disaster/calamity. These parties had issued a resolution after they held a virtual meeting to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant crisis. The meeting was chaired by Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

The resolution issued by the 22 Opposition parties read, “We, the opposition parties, extend our sympathy and support to the governments and people of West Bengal and Odisha in meeting the impact of the devastation caused by cyclone Amphan.” 

The resolution underlined that the cyclone had come as a double edged blow for the state as it was already fighting the coronavirus pandemic. These parties also came forward and made an appeal to the Centre to ensure relief and rehabilitation were made reachable to people of the affected areas. 

They also underlined that the possibility of the outbreak of other disease as a result of cyclone Amphan should also be taken seriously. 

With the deaths of 77 people reported from the state so far and massive damage to homes and public property, it is hoped that the government looks at the crisis brought forward by cyclone Amphan more seriously and extends all possible help and support to West Bengal and Odisha in these days of sheer crisis.