The centre must not resume domestic flights from Kolkata airport till May 30 as the state manages damage from Cyclone Amphan and the coronavirus pandemic, said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday.
People returning to their homes in Bengal will have to self-isolate themselves for 14 days, she said. Trains to the state have been put off till May 27, and the state’s chief secretary would make a formal request to the centre for holding off flights.
The coronavirus lockdown and a labour shortage have made repairs work difficult, resulting in parts of Kolkata and other districts being without power three days after the cyclone, said government officials. Protesters across the state and in Kolkata have blamed CESC, the power utility.
Banerjee said that CESC is a private organisation that came up during the Left Front government’s tenure. “They are facing manpower shortage. Most people have gone home. A lockdown is on, this is not a usual time,” she said.
CESC and the state were arranging hundreds of generators, but 70 per cent offices and industries in the state were closed, making restoration work difficult. Uprooted trees across Kolkata added to the problems. Five columns of the Indian Army are at work to help the state.
“I have just come back from a district where 10 lakh houses have been damaged. They don’t have water; 45,000 electric poles have been impacted. The embankments are destroyed,” she said, referring to South 24 Parganas.
Banerjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted an aerial survey of North and South 24 Parganas on Friday.
She said her administration was busy with Modi’s visit on Friday and lost some time in that. However, she added that restoration work was being done on a war footing.
Around 1,500 disaster management teams were at work in the state and 200 in Kolkata. “This is a big challenge. But we will overcome this,” she said.
To protesters she asked for forgiveness for the inconvenience caused and said, “Don’t do anything that will hinder the restoration work.”