Five days after super cyclone Amphan many Kolkata areas still without power, water

Published : May 25, 2020 21:53 IST

A tree that was uprooted in the heavy winds, in the Dumdum area of Kolkata. Photo: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Five days after the super cyclone Amphan devastated Kolkata, many parts of the city continue to remain in darkness and without water. While the government blames the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC), the affected people have taken to the streets in protest. Their anger is directed not just at the private power utility, but also the government and the elected civic body representatives.

On May 25, Firhad Hakim, Minister of Urban Development and Municipal Affairs and Chairman of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s Board of Administrators, said, “I told CESC today that enough is enough. First, they gave the excuse that the trees were not removed, but enough is enough. How much longer are we going to remain patient? I asked them why this work was taking them so long. Did they not understand the magnitude of the disaster that was coming?” CESC supplies electricity to Kolkata and its adjoining areas, including parts of Howrah and Hooghly districts.

Firhad claimed that many of the elected councillors were standing on the streets waiting for people from the CESC to come and restore electricity. However, in many of the places where residents had taken to the streets in desperation and were blocking traffic to draw attention upon their plight, the one common allegation was that the local councillors were nowhere to be seen. They claimed that trees that had fallen in different neighbourhoods had not been removed in many places, and there were no provisions for even drinking water.

Firhad maintained that all the main roads had been cleared of fallen trees. “There are no main roads in the city where cars are not plying,” said Firhad, the former Mayor of Kolkata, who is now functioning as the head of the administration of KMC, as the Municipal elections could not be held due to the outbreak of COVID-19. He insisted that the KMC had nothing to do with people not getting electricity for the last five days. “We are putting pressure on the CESC to work on restoring power, but the KMC cannot do the CESC’s work,” said Firhad.

While the CESC claims that it has restored power in 95 per cent of the areas where it provides electricity, the government says that there are places in Behala, Jadavpur and Tollygunge in Kolkata that still have no power (as of May 25). However, according to some reports there are quite a number of other areas as well, including some outside Kolkata in Howrah and Hooghly districts.

In Kolkata alone, according to the government’s estimate around 5,500 trees have been uprooted. “Never in the history of Kolkata have 5,500 trees fallen in the city in one day…. All precautions were taken by us, but it is humanly impossible to clear 5,500 fallen trees in one day. The person who can do that is definitely a god, not a human being,” said Firhad. He admitted that while main roads have been cleared for smooth flow of traffic, there are still many fallen trees that need to be removed. “Our first priority, was to clear the roads for movement of cars, because in case of any emergency cars should be able to ply, but I have never claimed that all the trees have been removed…. However, we have done the major work,” said Firhad.

The situation has particularly hit hard the elderly and the ailing. With no electricity and water they have been left in the lurch. Patients suffering from diabetes and cancer have not been able to preserve their medicines as their refrigerators were not working. While those who are able-bodied have still been managing to fetch water from other places and manually haul them to their homes, the elderly are dependent on the kindness of their neighbours. Moreover, with COVID-19 spreading rapidly in the State, and repeated washing of hands a necessity, the absence of water and electricity is being acutely felt, especially in families where there are small children.