Normalcy returned to Kolkata on Tuesday after electricity and water supply were restored in parts of the city that have witnessed protests over the lack of essential services since cyclone Amphan made landfall on May 20.
However, sporadic protests continued in some areas. A Trinamool Congress MLA was injured in one such demonstration in Nadial, and had to be admitted to hospital with head injuries.
Home Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay said electricity had been restored in 94 of the 103 municipal towns affected by the cyclone, while telecommunication services were back in 85 per cent of such areas.
Addressing media persons at the state secretariat, Bandyopadhyay said, “Due to cyclone Amphan, 16 districts were affected. As many as 86 people were killed and nearly six crore people affected. In total, 8.13 lakh people were shifted to relief camps. Now, nearly three lakh people are living in those shelters. However, it will take some time to restore essential services in remote areas. Power supply has been restored in 94 municipal towns. We have also distributed 50 lakh water pouches.”
The home secretary said all state and national highways were operational. According to him, 60 per cent of the area in the state affected by the storm had got back power.
“Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) has claimed that they are working hard to restore power supply. They also said that teams from Rajasthan have been brought to complete the work immediately,” Bandyopadhyay added.
According to Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) officials, the restoration work is going on a war footing. “In the next few days, all roads where trees were uprooted will be cleared. So far, trees on all major roads have been cleared,” said a civic body official.
Meanwhile, a CESC official claimed electricity had been restored in 97 per cent of Kolkata. “We are trying our best to provide our services to the people of the city. Out of our total 33 lakh consumers, we have restored our services to about 32 lakh consumers,” said the official.
Despite the government’s efforts, protests took place in localities such as Bagha Jatin, Baisnabghata, Bansdroni, Behala, Garfa and Garia in Kolkata, and in some districts.
In Sheoraphuli in Hooghly district, Congress leader Abdul Mannan took to the streets to protest against CESC’s failure to restore power supply and blocked the arterial GT Road. The blockade was later lifted.
In Nadial in the Port area, protesters blocked roads, demanding immediate restoration of power and water supply. They hit TMC MLA Abdul Khaleque Molla on the head. Molla also received injuries on his chin, and was admitted to Calcutta Medical Research Institute.
“A few protesters had blocked roads demanding restoration of power supply at Kanchantala in Nadial. Another section of agitators, however, were protesting against the road blockade. Both parties hurled bricks at each other. TMC MLA Abdul Khaleque Molla went there to pacify the protesters and got injured. A huge contingent of police has been deployed in the areas to maintain peace,” said a senior Kolkata Police officer.
The handling of the post-cyclone situation led to a war of words between State Consumer Affairs Minister and senior TMC leader Sadhan Pande, and State Urban Development Minister and KMC board of administrators Chairman Firhad Hakim.
Pande accused the municipal corporation of not adequately preparing for the aftermath of the storm. “The KMC should have been more cautious and prepared. It should have cut branches of trees round the year to prevent the fall of so many trees. The civic body lacked preparedness. Every borough should have been equipped with proper machinery. The chairman of the board of administrators at KMC did not hold a single meeting with city MLAs. They should have been consulted as capacity of such MLAs could have been utilised. We could have given him ideas to prepare for the disaster. It is very unfortunate,” Pande told reporters in the city’s Ultadanga area.
Hakim hit back at Pande, saying, “Rome was not built in a day. KMC is working 24×7 to clear the roads. All major and big roads have been cleared. It is easier to criticise than to work. If Sadhan Pande had ideas then why did not he come to us? Workers are on the streets clearing the roads while some people are sitting at home and giving lectures. I think Sadhan Pande is ill. He should take rest.”
Meanwhile, BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha alleged the state government had failed to handle the post-cyclone situation. “The administration has failed and instead of accepting its failure, it is blaming CESC for the situation,” he said.
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