Praising Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s “great work” during and after Cyclone Fani, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday said the Odisha government has done a commendable job in evacuating coastal areas to minimise the loss of lives. And after a joint aerial survey with Patnaik, Modi announced assistance of Rs 1,000 crore, and Rs 2 lakh for the family of those who died in the cyclone and Rs 50,000 for those injured.
After completing the survey, Modi, with Patnaik by his side, said: “Naveen Babu has done great work… it is not a small thing to shift nearly 12 lakh people”, while underscoring the “perfect coordination” and “perfect communication” between the state and central governments.
This bonhomie with Patnaik after Cyclone Fani was in sharp contrast to the Prime Minister’s rallies in West Bengal earlier in the day where he targeted Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Addressing a rally at Tamluk in East Midnapore district, Modi claimed that Banerjee did not return two of his telephone calls.
“I am just back from Odisha after reviewing the post-cyclone situation. I also wanted to speak to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over phone to discuss the matter. I had called her but Didi is so arrogant that she didn’t speak to me. I waited for her to call but she didn’t get back to me,” he said. “Speedbreaker Didi is more interested in doing politics. I wanted to speak to the state officials but the state government did not allow that to happen.”
And Banerjee was quick to respond. At a rally in Gopiballabhpur, she said: “Expiry Prime Minister is indulging in politics before elections. If you did not come here for a political election rally, I would have gone (to meet you). I do not consider you the PM anymore. I will talk to the new Prime Minister.” She said she could not speak with him since she was in Kharagpur. “And then, he writes from Delhi yesterday. He was supposed to address a rally at Jhargram earlier. Instead, he comes today, lands at Kalaikunda and wants to hold a meeting on cyclone damage. But why should we attend? He is coming for campaigning and he wants to hold an official meeting, and then say that he had called but the state did not respond. Please be informed that during elections, I will not share any platform with him,” she said.
“We do not need to beg from you. I will provide from my state funds. How can you ignore the Chief Minister and ask the Chief Secretary to sit in a meeting. How dare you do that? This is a federal structure.”
At another rally in Jhargram, the Prime Minister also dared Banerjee to arrest him for chanting “Jai Shri Ram”, a day after police detained three people in the Ghatal Lok Sabha seat region for shouting the same slogan at her convoy. Then, Banerjee had stopped the convoy and confronted the people who had shouted Jai Shri Ram.
“Didi has thrown people in jail for saying Jai Shri Ram. I thought of saying Jai Shri Ram here today so that she can throw me in jail too. This way the people of Bengal may be protected from the wrath of the TMC regime,” he said.
Meanwhile, at a meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee chaired by Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha Monday, the Odisha government said that restoration of power and telecommunication infrastructure was still the priority in cyclone-affected areas. Around 50 per cent power restoration has been reported while more work is needed in Bhubaneswar and Puri.
According to the Odisha government, “more than 1 crore people in 14,835 villages and 46 towns of 11 districts in the state are affected by the cyclone. In a record-mobilisation, over 12 lakh people including 2,000 pregnant women were evacuated in less than 24 hours to 9,000 shelters with functional kitchens”. The Odisha Police announced that road connectivity from Bhubaneswar to Puri, Puri to Konark, Gop, Nimapada, Astaranga, Puri to Brahmangiri, Delang to Khurda, Pipili to Jatni was restored.
The Finance Ministry has also directed insurance companies to settle claims expeditiously and the State Level Banking Committee has been asked to convene to coordinate banking issues, including the functioning of ATMs. Railways have resumed train services on all the lines. The yard at Puri, which was extensively damaged will be restored fully by May 12.