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Cyclone Amphan: Bengal shuts its borders, govt says rebuilding top priority

West Bengal shares a border with Bangladesh, and the states of Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Sikkim, and Assam.

Written by Atri Mitra | Kolkata |
May 25, 2020 7:19:39 am
Cyclone Amphan, Cyclone Amphan West Bengal, West Bengal borders shut, West Bengal borders closed, India news, Indian Express Men salvage items from a damaged shop after Cyclone Amphan made its landfall, in South 24 Parganas district in the eastern state of West Bengal, India, May 21, 2020. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

The West Bengal government on Sunday closed the international border and all state frontiers, saying it is occupied with restoration work following the devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan last week.

A senior government official told The Indian Express, “South Bengal districts were severely affected by Amphan. Now, the primary concern of the administration is to start the restoration work as early as possible. All [district] administrations are now busy removing debris. Now, accepting migrant workers or people from other countries or states is impossible, and an additional headache for the state administration. That is why the administration decided to postpone these exercises for the time being.”

West Bengal shares a border with Bangladesh, and the states of Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Sikkim, and Assam. According to the state Home Department, trucks from Bangladesh have been stopped at checkposts, and will be permitted to enter only after debris are cleared.

The decision to close the state borders is going to be a blow to migrants trying to return to the state amid the ongoing lockdown. It came a day after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asked the Ministry of Railways to stop till May 26 the Shramik Special trains ferrying migrant workers. She also asked the Centre to postpone by a few days domestic flight services, which are scheduled to partially resume on Monday.

In a letter to Chairman of Railway Board VK Yadav dated May 22, Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha had mentioned the extensive infrastructure damage caused by the storm.

“As the district administrations are involved in relief and rehabilitation works, it will not be possible to receive special trains for the next few days. It is therefore requested that no train should be sent to West Bengal till May 26,” Sinha added.

The cyclone also knocked down internet connection in most of the areas it tore through, sending the government website for entry-and-exit pass system offline for two days.

“Thousands of requests are pending now. After the restoration process gathers speed, the approval of these will start again,” said a government official.

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