Amid Opposition’s claim that there was “political biases” in the relief work carried out by the state government in Cyclone Bulbul-hit areas, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday told officials to not see the “colour of people and distribute relief to all”. She also said that the loss incurred by the state due to the cyclone might go up to Rs 50,000 crore.
“Please don’t see the (political) colour. Try as much as you can help the needy people,” the Chief Minister said at an administrative review meeting hereafter conducting an aerial survey of cyclone-hit areas of North 24 Parganas district.
“Help them (cyclone-affected people) in the way in which you saved them. For some days, don’t look at duty time. Do as much work you can. If necessary, work for 12 hours. Don’t worry, we will compensate you in other ways later,” she told the officials at the meeting.
The cyclone that made landfall late Saturday night between Sagar Island of West Bengal and Khepupara in Bangladesh, affected several areas in south Bengal, mainly Basirhat, Hingalgunj, Sandeshkhali, Pathrpratima, Fraserganj, Bakkhali, Namkhana among others.
“Going by what I have seen, I think the cyclone has led to massive destruction. By massive, I mean really massive... People sitting in Kolkata and other parts of the state will be not able to realise the degree of devastation. If I’m not wrong, I think there has been a loss of Rs 50,000 crore... I hope with a day or two, the central team will come and see the devastation,” the Chief Minister said at the review meeting.
Taking note that at least 15 lakh hectares of agricultural land were damaged due to the storm, she said the affected farmers would get all help from her government. “The entire paddy cultivation has been ruined. I assure the farmers of all form of support from our government. The farmers under the state’s crop insurance policy will get hundred per cent coverage,” Mamata said, adding that the state government would soon announce a special package for the affected farmers.
Expressing concern over the education of students in the affected areas, she directed the Education Department to provide books to schoolchildren appearing for board examinations. “Those who will be going to take the secondary examination, they will be in deep trouble. So, distribute these family 5 litres of kerosene and one hurricane lamp, so that the students would be able to continue their studies,” the CM directed the officials.
She also directed the district administration to immediately launch a survey of the dams in the Sunderbans and, if necessary, carry out repair work. “If peoples are staying near any of such vulnerable dams, first ensure their rehabilitation, then carry out the repair and restoration work. Otherwise, there will be a big accident,” she said.
According to the Chief Minister, six lakh people have been affected and over five lakh houses damaged due to the cyclone.
Later in the day, she addressed locals here and handed over a cheque of Rs 2.4 lakh each to the family members of five people from the district who lost their lives in the calamity.
At least 12 people have lost their lives in the calamity.
She also thanked the people for adhering to the cyclone warning. “You all obeyed the order. That’s why we were able to save many lives. I know you all are suffering a lot, especially you are not getting drinking water. So, I have ordered the distribution of 50 lakh pouches of drinking water. Don’t worry, we will always stand beside you,” she told the villagers.
“Many areas are still underwater, that’s why our officers have failed to restore electricity service,” she told them.
On Monday, the CM had surveyed the storm-affected areas of Kakdwip, Namkhana and Bakhkhali in South 24 Parganas, and constituted a task force led by chief secretary to review the relief works.
(With PTI inputs)