Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik is caught in a paradoxical situation. He received accolades worldwide for pre-cyclone management. But, back home, brickbats awaited him on Monday as people protested against the poor relief measures taken by the authorities after Phailin lashed the coast with a speed of 200-220 km per hour.
The first taste of the local anger came when Patnaik was booed during his visit to cyclone hit Ganjam district on Monday afternoon.
Later in the evening, hundreds of people blocked traffic on the main highway at Balugaon in Khurda district expecting the chief minister to take the route for the state capital Bhuvaneshwar. Patnaik flew back. They were protesting against failure of the administration to pump out water from their water-clogged homes.
The two standalone incidents were enough to indicate the brewing resentment of the Phailin affected people living on about 100 km long storm hit coastal stretch.
"Not a single gram of food has been provided by the government. We are somehow managing with the little bit of rice we have and fish we can catch in small river-lets," said CH Babaji, a fisherman and resident of Podampita village in southern Odisha, popular for being the nesting site of olive ridley turtles.
His sentiments are echoed across the cyclone affected areas. Basant Kumar Nayak, 55 years old and president of boat community at Barkul village said several boats have been washed away and the jetties are damaged. However, not a single government official has come to gauge the situation. "Without fishing infrastructure, fishermen cannot survive…no compensation has been given to us," he claimed.
Narayan Pradhan was equally disenchanted and said, "We ourselves cleaned roads and removed destroyed mangrove shrubs. Even the rebuilding of the homes is being done by the villagers." Villagers could be seen trying to rebuild their mud and thatched roof homes and cleaning the muck thrown by Phailin.
A villager stands beside her house ravaged by cyclone Phailin. (Arabinda Mahapatra/HT Photo)
HT found a government team only in one of the 15 villages visited. Two officials, who were there for a few minutes and left thereafter, asked the villagers to submit a list of damaged houses to get tarpaulin covers for the roof. In another village, a government volunteer for cyclone, Debashish Khar, expressed his helplessness in providing relief. "When I have not received any ration how can I distribute?" he asked. An official in Ganjam district said that the food was being provided where it was needed. "It is just 24 hours since the storm has receded," he said, seeking some more time to provide relief.
Most of the government officials were not in the cyclone hit areas as they were busy preparing for Patnaik's visit. "All our senior officers have gone for the chief minister's visit," said a police officer heading a team of five constables to manage a road-blockage by about 1,000 people at Balugoan near Chilka. "I can only ask them to be patient. Only our senior officers can give assurance," the officer said, requesting anonymity.
What had really saddened the locals was the administration's failure to meet their expectations generated after excellent pre-cyclone management. "They (district officials) were prompt in taking us away to the relief camps. After the storm they have gone missing," Babaji said.
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