Bengal opposition leaders meet Central team, raise concerns over cyclone relief distribution

Published : June 06, 2020 23:20 IST

The main opposition parties of West Bengal — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress — met the Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) that inspected the devastation caused by super cyclone Amphan and voiced a common concern - that the relief from the Centre should reach the affected people and not be diverted for other purposes.

The seven-member IMCT led by Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Anuj Sharma, arrived in the State on June 5 and toured some of the cyclone-affected areas in the two districts of North and South 24 Parganas , which bore the brunt of the cyclone’s destructive force. Prior to leaving for Delhi on June 6, the team met the leaders of the opposition parties before attending a meeting with the Chief Secretary and other senior State government officials.

After meeting the IMCT, both the Congress and the CPI (M) said they demanded that Amphan be declared a “national disaster”. Despite their political and ideological differences, all three parties were on the same page when it came to the demand for a proper mechanism to ensure that the relief reached the right people and places.

Pradesh Congress president Somen Mitra said the advance of Rs.1,000 crore forwarded by the Centre was “nothing” and added that the IMCT should make its assessment and decide upon the amount. “But one thing that needs to be ensured is that the money that is going to come should be properly utilised and not be put into any political fund,” said Mitra.

In the same vein CPI (M) leader and leader of the Left Legislative Party in the West Bengal Assembly, Sujan Chakraborty said, “We have demanded that the compensation should reach the affected people and not be diverted. The money meant for relief must not be used for any political party or for looting…. Either everybody sign on the list of victims (for compensation) involving all the political parties, or some other method be used by which the work can be done in a neutral fashion…. A proper mechanism needs to be put in place.”

While the BJP did not agree with the Congress and the CPI(M)’s demand that the Amphan cyclone should be labelled a national disaster, State party president and Lok Sabha MP Dilip Ghosh said the facts on the true extent of the damage caused by the super cyclone should be revealed. “With the assistance received from the Centre, relief should reach the affected people and rehabilitation work should start,” said Ghosh. Taking a swipe at the Trinamool government, he said, “The moment they smell money they start preparing themselves. The party workers have been told to remain prepared and start working on the election fund because money is coming,” said Ghosh.

In the meeting with the Chief Secretary, the IMCT was given a report on the extent of the damage caused by the super cyclone, as assessed by the government. According to the ‘Damage Report’, the total loss caused by the devastation stands at Rs.1,02,422 crore, of which Rs.28,560 crore is for 28.56 lakh houses that have been damaged and Rs.15,860 crore is for the damage on 17 lakh hectares of agriculture land and crops.

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