On Friday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had reportedly reached out to the Centre, seeking financial aid for the reconstruction of the State after the Cyclone ‘Amphan’ devastated several districts, leaving ruin in its wake.
“We need money for relief and we need it now, not later. I had set up a Rs 200-crore Covid-19 fund, but we have already spent Rs 1,000 crore. For Covid, we have got no money from the Centre yet,” she was quoted as saying.
While the assessment of the extent of devastation will take time due to lack of connectivity, Banerjee estimates the losses incurred to the State to run into ‘lakhs of crores of rupees’. She also informed that Union Home Minister Amit Shah had called and assured her of all possible assistance from the Centre.
Mamata Banerjee opposed Central assistance during ‘Aila’
According to a report published by The Economic Times on May 30, 2009, Mamata Banerjee who was then the Union Railway Minister had asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to not provide ₹1000 crore to the West Bengal Government for relief work in the state, post the havoc wrought by Cyclone Aila. Reportedly, Singh had called the West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to learn about the extent of the devastation, besides promising help to the State. The then finnace minister Pranab Mukherjee had also held a meeting in Kolkata.
11 years ago, Mamata Banerjee had justified her decision to oppose Central Assistance by claiming that money transferred as an aid to the government would be diverted to the cadres of the ruling CPM. She had also alleged shoddy utilization of CM relief fund. In a letter, she had reportedly stated that the money will line up the pockets of CPM cadre and will never reach the people.
Bengal politics during cyclone Fani
After cyclone Fani last year, while Odisha was the worst affected state, Bengal too had suffered damages in several districts. However, the general elections were going on during May last year. Mamata Banerjee had tried to create a political controversy over the cyclone when she had alleged that the PM, while he visited Odisha, had not called her.
However, her claims were soon refuted by the PMO and it was revealed that PM Modi had attempted to speak to Mamata Banerjee twice to access the cyclone situation in the state, but the Bengal CM had not returned his calls.
PM Modi had also expressed his dissatisfaction with the TMC government when he had revealed that while the Odisha government coordinated with the centre and held a review meeting, the Bengal government had ignored his request for a review meeting to access relief work in the state.
Cyclone Amphan hits West Bengal
The Cyclone Amphan had a catastrophic impact on the State of West Bengal. 80 people have reportedly died while homes and crops have been destroyed. Following his visit to the affected State, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced immediate central assistance of ₹1000 Crore to repair the damage caused due to the cyclone. A review meeting was held at a school in Basirhat during which Mamata Banerjee emphasised the need for central aid. “All aspects relating to rehabilitation, reconstruction will be addressed. We all want West Bengal to move ahead. The Centre will always stand with West Bengal in these testing times,” PM Modi was quoted as saying.