In a striking display of cooperation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, conducted an aerial survey of North and South 24 Parganas ravaged by Cyclone Amphan and presided over an administrative meeting to discuss the extent of damage and the financial assistance required to get Bengal back on its feet.
Emerging from an hour-long meeting at Basirhat in North 24 Parganas, the Prime Minister announced an advance interim assistance of Rs 1,000 crore.
The Centre and the state worked to minimise the damage by the cyclone but despite all efforts 80 lives were lost, said Prime Minister Modi, adding that there was significant damage to property across agriculture, power, telecommunication, infrastructure and business.
State government officials present during the meeting gave a detailed preliminary report on the extent of damage. Additionally, a central team would visit the affected areas to evaluate the loss.
In a rare instance, Chief Minister Banerjee on Friday was lauded for her efforts in dealing with the twin challenges of Covid-19 and Cyclone Amphan. “We are battling a pandemic on one hand and there is a cyclone situation in some parts. Dealing with the pandemic requires social distancing whereas battling the cyclone requires people to move to safer places,” the Prime Minister said during the briefing in the presence of the Chief Minister.
“Despite these contradictions, West Bengal is fighting well. We are all with West Bengal in these adverse times,” he added.
Prime Minister Modi also said that all aspects relating to rehabilitation, reconstruction would be addressed. “We all want West Bengal to move ahead. The Centre will always stand with West Bengal in these testing times,” he said.
Apart from Rs 1,000 crore advance assistance, the Prime Minister announced Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of persons who died in the cyclone and Rs 50,000 each to persons seriously injured due to the cyclone.
Banerjee later said that Bengal had suffered losses to the tune of Rs 1 trillion. However, no demand was raised, she said, adding that the Prime Minister had been briefed in detail about the post-cyclone situation in Bengal.
“In this hour of crisis, we must work together,” she said. In the morning, Banerjee received the Prime Minister at Kolkata airport and later accompanied him on the aerial survey along with Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar.
Support for Bengal poured in from all quarters today. From President Ram Nath Kovind to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Odisha Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik.
Till Cyclone Amphan hit Bengal, the state and BJP leaders were engaged in a war of words over the state’s handling of Covid-19. In the last video-conference with the Prime Minister, Banerjee had said the state was working relentlessly to fight Covid, yet some central ministers were doing politics which was not right for federalism. She had also said that states should get their due respect.
However, if Covid-19 had laid bare the strained relations, Amphan appeared to have opened a new chapter of cooperation between the Centre and the state.