As Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar prepared to make an aerial survey of districts/coastal areas battered by Super Cyclone Amphan, a clipping of an old news story that said, “Don’t give aid to Bengal, Mamata tells Centre,” was being circulated in social media this morning.
Though several people termed the clipping fake, it was a news story on how the Trinamul Congress had allegedly asked the Centre not to release aid for Bengal as Cyclone Aila hit the state in 2009 when the Left Front was in power in the state.
According to CPIM state secretariat member Asok Bhattacharya, the former Mayor and MLA from Siliguri, Choudhary Mohan Jatua, the MP elected on Trinamul ticket from Mathurapur in Bengal had then written to the Centre and asked the central government to not release aid to Bengal after Aila hit the region.
“As a result, the amount of aid given to Bengal then was comparatively less than the funds required for reconstruction and restoration of cyclone-hit areas,” he said today.
“Despite such attitude of the Trinamul Congress in 2009 when we were in power, we today demand that the Centre declare Amphan as national calamity and provide all the required financial assistance from the Prime Minister’s National Disaster Fund for the restoration and reconstruction of cyclone-hit areas so that thousands of people, who have been rendered homeless, thousands of farmers whose standing crops were damaged, can be rehabilitated and compensated properly,” Mr Bhattacharya added.
However, the opposition parties in the state, especially the BJP, have expressed doubts about Miss Banerjee’s plans to shift the secretariat from Writers’ Building to Nabanna, and raised questions on how long she would continue ruling the state from the new secretariat, which was also hit by Amphan.
Asked to comment, Mr Bhattacharya, the former Siliguri Mayor, who was appointed the Chairman of the Board of Administrators for the Siliguri Municipal Corporation by the state recently, said: “I don’t know whether Mamata Banerjee would come back to Writers’ Building. But as far as I know she does not want to come back to Writers’ out of superstition.”
Notably, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh today told reporters that Miss Banerjee, when she was the railway minister, had asked the Centre not to help the CPI-M-led Bengal government “to stop fund looting.”
“Supporting the CM’s stand, I will also propose the Centre when it provides its schemes to the victims directly,” Mr Ghosh said. State urban development minister Firhad Hakim retorted to this and said: “Juniors should not talk as two seniors (PM and CM) discuss serious issues. Dilip Babu does not know that courtesy.”
However, a senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist, Sadhan Paul, the organisational in-charge of North Bengal, expressed happiness over the PM’s visit to cyclone-hit areas.
“When Nabanna has been hit by Amphan, according to the CM’s statement, it is high time that they think of the administrative building of a state and how the luxurious building was damaged by the storm. In the recent past, we do not have reports of any damage to Writers’ Building, which is the oldest, and traditionally and historically important heritage building,” Mr Paul said.
“It is high time to begin discussions on the historically important administrative building–when it was constructed and what its objective was,” he added.
On the other hand, Darjeeling MP Raju Bista said: “I am thankful to PM Narendra Modi for announcing Rs 1000 crore in advance as funds for recovery and rehabilitation to West Bengal. I also welcome the PM’s announcement of sending a central team of experts to conduct a detailed survey of the damage caused by cyclone Amphan. I will donate my one month’s Parliamentary salary to the CM Relief Fund.”