As Odisha Struggles to Stand Up, Residents Want Cyclone Fani Be Declared 'National Calamity'
The Centre has so far provided aid of Rs 1,381 crore to the Odisha government for relief and rehabilitation work.
A view of the destruction caused by Cyclone Fani after its landfall, in Puri. (Image: PTI)
Bhubaneswar: Even as a central team readies to visit Odisha to assess the extensive damage caused by Cyclone Fani amid reports that many of the affected people are suffering in the absence of relief material, there is a growing clamour in the state to have the disaster declared as a “national calamity”.
Cyclone Fani, which caused havoc along the Odisha coast on last Friday, made a landfall in Puri district and passed with wind speeds of over 200 kmph, caused death of 41 people and affected 1.41 crore people in 155 blocks and 51 urban local bodies (ULB) in the state.
With power supply towers having been damaged in the affected areas, electricity and water supply were totally disrupted. Hundreds of school buildings and hospitals were damaged by the pre-monsoon gale. In many parts of Puri and Khurda districts, which were the worst hit, there were reports of protests because the affected people were not getting relief material.
Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government earned accolades for evacuating nearly 11 lakh people from low-lying areas close to the sea in the 24 hours before the cyclone’s landfall and thus minimising loss of lives. Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted an aerial survey of the affected areas with Patnaik on May 5 and offered all help to the state for the reconstruction and rehabilitation process.
The Centre has so far provided aid of Rs 1,381 crore to the state for relief and rehabilitation work while the state government has demanded Rs 17,000 crore as part of a long-term strategy to build ‘cyclone resilient’ infrastructure in the state.
After a National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) meeting presided over by Union cabinet secretary PK Sinha on Wednesday, it was decided that a central team would soon visit Odisha to make a detailed assessment of the damage caused by Cyclone Fani. Meanwhile, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) directed the Odisha government to take immediate steps to ameliorate the hardships of the cyclone-hit people by providing them enough relief materials. NHRC has asked the Odisha chief secretary to submit his response to the Commission in six weeks.
“Since the pre-monsoon cyclone killed 41 people and affected nearly 1.5 crore people, the state government should make a formal request to the Centre to declare it a national calamity. If such large-scale destruction is not a national calamity, then what is?” asked senior Congress leader Narasingh Mishra, also the leader of opposition in Odisha assembly. The Left parties and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also backed the demand to declare Cyclone Fani a national calamity.
Claiming that the administration in Odisha is “not in a position to assess the damage” caused by the cyclone and has been unable to restore normalcy, Mishra also demanded that the Centre should deploy the armed forces to help people resume normal life at the earliest.
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