Already reeling under the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, Cyclone Amphan added more pain to the misery of West Bengal people by uprooting trees, damaging power and water lines, and disrupting road traffic. Winds gusting at the speed of almost 190 km per hour shattered everything coming in its way.
With normal life thrown out of gear, the state virtually came to a standstill. As the civic authorities struggled to cope with the calamity, the army had to be called in to restore essential services. Many city residents had to go without power and water for a couple of days.
Apart from trampling the city landscape, it also gave a telling blow to the green cover. Giant ‘lungs of the city’ fell like ninepins and had to be removed with a heavy heart.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee took an aerial survey to assess the damage with the Centre granting Rs 1,000 crore for relief and rehabilitation.
Demanding more funds for relief, the Chief Minister took to Twitter and tweeted, “People have been facing economic hardship of unimaginable proportions because of the ongoing pandemic. I appeal to Central Government to transfer Rs10,000 each as one-time assistance to migrant labourers including people in unorganised sector. A portion of PM-CARES could be used for this.”
More than 70 people lost their lives, including 15 in Kolkata alone. Most of them died from electrocution as city streets were submerged under water or houses collapsed under battering rains.
Monitoring the situation from Nabanna, the state secretariat, the CM took the cudgels to restore essential services for the citizens in the wake of calamity.
Urging people to have patience, Mamata Banerjee assured them that the administration is working tirelessly to restore normalcy. To restore power and essential services, CESE and WBSEDCL have been given firm directives to work 24×7. Most of the arterial roads have been opened with the help of army and civic authorities.
Battling on two fronts at the same time, West Bengal has risen to the occasion to contain the spread of coronavirus as well.
Compared to other states, West Bengal is better placed as far as the number of COVID-19 positive cases is concerned. Kolkata being one of the mega cities, the infection is largely under control.
The CM along with Commissioner of Police Anuj Sharma hit the Kolkata streets, stopping at the intersections of densely populated neighbourhoods to impress upon citizens to join the fight against coronavirus.
Addressing the public at Rajarhat Bazar, Park Circus, Tiljala, Mathpukur and Hazra, the CM appealed to them on cordless microphone to remain indoors and not to break the lockdown.
She also urged them to take the help of police if they needed anything. For beating lockdown blues, the Kolkata police sang the song “We shall overcome”, an improvised version of a popular Bengali song, for reaching out to people, especially the elderly living alone.
People watched the improvised chart busters from their balconies and rooftops. An enthusiastic crowd cheered from the confines of their homes as the cops took to the streets at Entally and Gariahat. The police efforts were lauded by netizens some of whom even invited them to their neighbourhood.
We are fortunate to have a Chief Minister who looks for the humane face in every move. As the COVID-19 lockdown brought normal life in the state to a grinding halt, the Chief Minister opened her heart for the downtrodden, poor vendors and elderly citizens.
Stressing the need for social distancing, she also drew circles on the road with a piece of brick to convey the safety message.
A clear directive has been given to the police to issue special passes to delivery agents for the doorstep dispatch during the lockdown. The priority is to ensure the availability of essential commodities, and home delivery of such items.
As Bengal has semi-skilled and unskilled workforce living in different parts of the country, many of them could not return home and are stuck in different places.
Moved over the predicament of migrant labours, the Chief Minister has written to her counterparts in 18 states urging them to provide food, shelter and medicines.
Acknowledging the plight of senior citizens in housing complexes, appeal has been made to housing committees to help them out in buying essentials.
Apart from enforcing the lockdown with an iron hand, the CM urged housing committees to help out senior citizens in their complex as these people can’t go to the grocery store for necessary items.
On the directive of the CM, the pavement dwellers have been shifted to night shelters to alleviate their sufferings.
The need of the hour is to protect our medicare professionals, build health infrastructure and quarantine centres and buy medicines for the treatment of coronavirus affected. The medical and social cost will be huge which the government cannot bear alone.
Health of citizens being the prime concern, the government has placed orders for four lakh personal protection equipment, mainly for health workers, two lakh surgical masks, 300 ventilators, and 200 infrared thermometers.
This is a war that needs collective efforts, pooling of resources and liberal donations from the NRIs and uber-rich. With high morale, we are surely going to win the battle and set Bengal as a role model for other states.
Pankaj K Sharma and Mohammad Asif