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Central Team Wraps up Visit, Bengal Submits List of Cyclone Amphan Damages

A man covers himself with a plastic sheet in Odisha's Bhadrak district on Wednesday. (AP)

A man covers himself with a plastic sheet in Odisha's Bhadrak district on Wednesday. (AP)

The state government has shared an assessment of damages of Rs 1,02,442 with the central team, according to a statement.

The West Bengal government sought a package of over Rs 1 lakh crore from the Centre to rebuild areas devastated by Cyclone Amphan and handed over a list of "assessment of losses" to the central team which wrapped up its three-day visit to the state on Saturday.

The seven-member inter-ministerial central team, led by Anuj Sharma, joint secretary (cyber and information security) in the Ministry of Home Affairs, held an hour-long meeting with Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha and senior officials of the state government before returning to Delhi.

During the meeting, details of losses amounting to Rs 1,02,442 crore in agriculture, fisheries and irrigation among others were submitted by the state government to the team.

The May 20 cyclone left 98 people dead and caused large-scale destruction to property in south Bengal. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the state suffered losses of Rs 1 lakh crore due to the calamity.

The opposition CPI(M) and Congress too met the central team and demanded that Cyclone Amphan be declared a "national disaster". They requested the team to make a proper assessment of the damage as it would ensure that the affected get the requisite aid from the Centre.

The BJP, which too met the team, said rather than debating on the nomenclature, efforts should be made to ensure that monetary aid reaches the actual beneficiaries.

"A list of our assessment of the losses was given to the team. We have shared our views and told them about areas where immediate help is required. They have taken a note of it," a senior government official told PTI.

According to the list, the highest damage of Rs 28,560 crore was caused to dwelling houses. The second maximum loss of Rs 26,790 crore was incurred by the industries, including the MSME sector, while the agriculture sector lost Rs 15,860 crore.

A loss of Rs 2,000 crore was reported by the fisheries department and of Rs 6,581 crore by the horticulture sector, the state government said in a statement.

In the animal resources development department, the loss was assessed to be Rs 452 crore, while in the urban infrastructure department, it was Rs 6,750 crore.

The team was briefed by the opposition parties during separate meetings about complaints of non-receipt of relief aid by affected people in many areas.

Leader of Opposition Abdul Mannan (Congress) said the cyclone if declared a national disaster would invite more attention and help from international NGOs.

"There is a wide gap between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's description of the situation in the aftermath of the cyclone and the response to the calamity by her administration and party," he said.

"We visited Sagar islands on Thursday. We were the first ones to visit the areas ravaged by the calamity," he added.

Left Front leader and CPI(M) MLA Sujan Chakraborty said the Centre should release a relief package at the earliest.

"We welcome the visit by the team and urge its members to take stock of the damage. We want the Centre to declare Amphan a national disaster. Whatever relief package is necessary to rebuild homes and rehabilitate people should be disbursed as soon as possible," he said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party said the money disbursed by the Union government should be deposited directly into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.

"We are of the view that rather than spending time on deciding the category of the disaster, it is important to ensure that houses are built and the affected get their due," state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said.

Alleging that the monetary relief doled out by the state did not reach the victims, he said, "We have requested the central team to appoint a nodal officer to audit all construction activities in the cyclone-damaged areas and deposit money in the accounts of those affected."

The ruling Trinamool Congress on its part expressed apprehension that the team might "act as per the wishes of their political masters".

"The team came 15 days after the cyclone. We are not sure whether it will put up a real picture or will file a report as per the wishes of the state BJP unit. We believe that the Centre does not sympathise with the people of the state," state Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee said.

However, the central team was accorded a red carpet welcome by the state government on Thursday. It was divided into two groups and visited the two worst-hit districts of North and South 24 Parganas.

In North 24 Parganas, which it visited Friday, the team faced protestors in Minakha and Malancha blocks carrying placards saying they were not getting enough relief.

It also toured several devastated villages and embankments of Patharpratima and Sandeshkhali blocks.

They also visited Namkhana in South 24 Parganas and Hingalganj and Basirhat in North 24 Parganas and spoke to locals and inquired about their problems, district officials said.

The team will submit its assessment to the Centre, following which it may release more funds to assist the state government in rebuilding the cyclone-ravaged areas.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Basirhat in North 24 Parganas district along with Banerjee on May 22 and announced an advance relief of Rs 1,000 crore, which has been released by the Centre to the state.

The state government has released Rs 1,444 crore for the affected and has already transferred money to nearly 5 lakh people for repairing their homes, besides crop damage assistance to 23.3 lakh farmers.

first published:June 06, 2020, 20:43 IST