People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 21

May 31, 2009

 


Cyclone Devastates Bengal

PB & Bengal Left Front Call For Immediate Relief

 

B Prasant

 

THE cyclonic storm and typhoon Ayela struck the coastline of Bengal after suddenly making a left turn even as everyone including meteorologists thought that it had taken a right turn as such storms usually do to invade coastal Bangladesh. This effectively prevented evacuation of people from areas that were subsequently affected.

 

The cyclone left a trail of massive devastation with close to a hundred people, men, women, and children, killed in the rage of the cyclonic storm all over the state.  The Bengal Left Front government has tackled relief work on a war footing. Meanwhile the Left Front has called for a massive statewide collection of funds and relief materials from May 28 to June 3, 2009 for the relief and rehabilitation of the hundreds of thousands of people of Bengal, especially south Bengal, in the aftermath of the cyclonic storm and typhoon Ayela.

 

Kolkata city itself suffered in a major way with trees uprooted and electricity and other service poles keeled over, killing people, and destroying houses. Large areas had to have electricity shut off for fear of electrocution. Snapping of cable lines meant the Bengal Left Front government could not utilise the TV channels to issue warnings and other relevant information to the coastal districts in particular.

 

In the affected districts, more than several lakh of people are affected, shelterless, and dependent on the dry food and tarpaulins that the Left Front government has hastened out to the affected people. The worse of the storm damage was done on May 25 and 26 although we hear from north Bengal that rain has restarted in places like the dooars and the terai region in great earnest.

 

The Left Front has called upon all of its units and the units of the component political parties to go forth into the midst of the affected people and help the process of rebuilding of their shattered lives.  LF chairman Biman Basu visited several flood-affected areas of Kolkata and the surrounding districts. 

 

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee went to Nimpith in south 24 Parganas and met with the local people to gauge the depth and width of the damage and the measures necessary to relieve the people in their dire stressful conditions.  Finance minister Dr Asim Dasgupta visited both north 24 Parganas and east Midnapore as last reports came in.

 

The Bengal LF has appealed to the people irrespective of political affiliation to come forward with help for the affected.  It has also urged upon the union government to offer help to the state in its hour of crisis.

 

BUDDHADEB, ASIM VISIT STRICKEN DISTRICTS

 

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee visited several places in the affected parts of south 24 Parganas, spoke to the people, and looked to the relief and rehabilitation efforts. The Trinamul sabhadhipati of the district boycotted the meeting Buddhadeb took, bringing political affiliation above humane considerations, not unexpectedly perhaps.  Finance minister Asim Dasgupta on visiting Tamluk has spot-sanctioned Rs 1.80 crore for storm-swept Midnapore east. 

 

More than 100 relief camps have been set up across the calamity-hit districts.  More are in the making.  The relief camps house nearly half-a-lakh of people. The relief efforts go on with redoubled speed but much remains to be done, yet. The full picture of the damage will only emerge when the rains have ceased and the wind has dropped off. Meteorologists predict a weakening of the storm as the week drags by for the stricken people.

 

TORRENT OF SHOWERS IN NORTH BENGAL

 

It is raining fiercely in Darjeeling district even as we file this report. There is darkness at noon –– brought about by low scudding clouds that open up and down comes the rain pour, rain in the shape of large fearsome drops and the bare skin stings. Trees falling left and right on the difficult terrain of the circuitous and climbing Pankhabari Road make the earth assume a shape much like the landscape of a war-torn futuristic outline.

 

People continue to run helter-skelter to save themselves form the hail of falling stones and large chunks of mud. Roads to and from Siliguri and Darjeeling town are impassable. The town itself has no electricity and no running water.  Even the hardy hill people find it a tough going. 

 

The entire tourist brigade up in the hills, without even basic amenities for 72 hours now, is in bad shape as the temperature drops suddenly, surreptitiously.  Bundled up, everybody looks piteous.

 

Sad as figures of those dead and injured come out of the office of the district and sub-divisional administration.  Eleven have been swept to their demise in the fierce natural fury.  A child Hrishika Subba aged but three, died when the jhora of falling stones hit her.  There is more than a dozen of the hill people recorded as ‘missing,’ and only the worst is presumed about their fate.

 

MEETING

AT SILIGURI

 

The district administration met at Siliguri amidst the calamity and chalked out a disaster management plan.  Urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya and Siliguri Mayor Nurul Islam amongst others were present.  One learns that all rivers are in spate especially the fast-flowing wide-mouthed the Mahananda and the Balason.

 

The administration has kept on the standby, nearly three lakh pieces of dhoti-sari-lungi, as well as a great quantity of tarpaulin and thick plastic sheets plus poles.  Elsewhere, north Dinajpore, Maldah, Jalpaiguri, and Coochbehar, the latter two bordering a rain-swept Assam, recorded upto 150 mm of rain, which has poured down never-ending, as the skies seemed to open up.

 

More than a lakh of people are affected in these districts alone.  Most have been rendered homeless. Power supply is infrequent as is the furnishing of potable water. The river Teesta has continued to erode and erase both her banks as the flow increases and the twist in her turbulence reaches the limit.