Lauding Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for his response to Cycle Fani, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday said the state government had done a commendable job in evacuating coastal areas to minimise the loss of lives. And after a joint aerial survey with Patnaik, Modi also announced Rs 1,000 crore additional assistance and mooted a long-term disaster mitigation plan for all coastal states.
After completing the survey of the damage caused by Cyclone Fani, Modi, with Patnaik by his side, said: “There was continuous coordination over the last seven-eight days between the Centre and state governments. The state government was both proactive and responsive…I too kept track despite the hectic election schedule, sent a team in advance. The Centre, state and the grassroots workers worked with such coordination.it is not a small thing to move 12 lakh people to safety.”
This bonhomie with Patnaik was in sharp contrast to the sniping between the Prime Minister and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Hours before he surveyed Odisha, Modi at a poll rally in Tamluk in WB said he made two calls Mamata in the aftermath of Cyclone Fani that went unreturned. “She is so arrogant that she didn’t speak to me…Speedbreaker Didi is more interested in doing politics,” he said adding that the people of West Bengal are bearing the brunt of her politics.
Banerjee was quick to respond. At her 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.”
The Prime Minister’s Office said that they were assured that Mamata would return the PM’s calls but that never happened. Earlier, West Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee had accused the PM of bypassing the federal structure by talking only to Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi. Banerjee also said that she was in Kharagpur when the calls from the PMO came and later the state government had been called for a meeting at Kalaikunda, where he landed for an election meeting after touring the cyclone battered Odisha.
“Are we his servants that we have to go wherever he beckons? Now he will allege that I have not responded and have not shown cooperation,” said Mamata. Meanwhile, at a meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee chaired by Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha on Monday, the Odisha government said restoration of power and telecommunication infrastructure was still the priority in cyclone-affected areas. Around 50% power restoration has been reported while more work is needed in Bhubaneswar and Puri.
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.