Cyclone Fani: Odisha starts distributing aid amid complaints of slow restoration work
More than 1.4 crore people have been affected by Cyclone Fani which was the strongest summertime cyclone in the last 43 yearsUpdated: May 07, 2019 14:19 IST
The government in Odisha started distributing relief material on Tuesday, four days after Cyclone Fani ripped through its coast causing extensive damage, even as people grew restive over the pace of restoration work.
More than 1.4 crore people in over 16,000 villages and 51 urban local bodies have been affected by Fani, India’s strongest summertime cyclone in the last 43 years.
Long queues were seen in Puri, the Ground Zero of the cyclone, and Bhubaneswar where 160kmph winds ravaged the city’s electrical and telecom infrastructure, since morning.
Fisherfolk in Puri’s Penthakata area alleged that they received sub-standard rice.
“The rice is all soggy and unfit for human consumption. Are we dogs that they gave us such relief?” asked D Divya, a fisherwoman.
Another fisherwoman Jamuna Behera said the government perhaps did not think of them as elections were over. “Had the cyclone hit us a month ago, the government would have been overactive in providing relief,” she said.
In Badagada high school of state capital Bhubaneswar, Dalit housewife Pramila Bhoi has been waiting since the morning to get Rs 2,000. Clutching her BPL and National Food Security (NFSA) act card, Bhoi stood behind at least 200 people in scorching heat for the relief distribution to start.
“After receiving the money from here, I have to again queue up before the NFSA dealer for rice. My house has been completely damaged after a coconut tree fell on it. I don’t know when my ordeal will be over,” said Bhoi.
In Bhubaneswar, clamour over the restoration of power and mobile connectivity grew as officials struggled to get manpower. Odisha power secretary Hemant Sharma said at least 25% of Bhubaneswar would get power supply by Tuesday evening.
“We have managed to restore three of the eight feeders that supply power to the city. We are running short of people. In Puri, we are yet to start the restoration of the feeders. We need 10,000 people, but are managing with 1,000 only,” said Sharma.
Besides mobile phone connectivity continued to be erratic for most people in Puri and Bhubaneswar as service providers stopped operating the towers in absence of dedicated power supply. Many bank ATMs also remained closed due to lack of internet connectivity.
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik had announced two days ago that all families covered under the National Food Security Act in Puri district and Bhubaneswar city will get 50kg of rice, Rs 2,000 and polythene sheets.
In moderately-affected districts of Cuttack, Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur, affected families were eligible to receive an additional one-month quota of rice and Rs 500.
People in all the affected districts will receive one month of additional pension and house building assistance of Rs 95,100 for fully damaged structures, Rs 5,200 for partially-damaged structures and Rs 3,200 for minor damages.
But despite public criticism of the state government over the tardy pace of restoration, Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday for the timely evacuation of 1.4 million people from their homes ahead of Cyclone Fani’s landfall.
Modi also announced an assistance of Rs 1,000 crore for Odisha and ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those injured during the cyclone.
Naveen Patnaik had demanded a relief package of Rs 17,000 crore from the Centre, including Rs 10,000 crore for disaster-resilient power infrastructure and Rs 7,000 crore for converting five lakh kutcha houses to pucca ones and disaster-resilient telecommunication network, said the SRC.
Patnaik donated his salary for a year to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund and urged everyone to similarly help people. Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar has already donated Rs 1 crore to Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.
Several state governments have also started helping Odisha by donating money towards relief and restoration work. Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat announced Rs 5 crore as assistance, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath and Chhattisgarh’s Bhupesh Baghel have announced Rs 10 crore, Rs 10 crore and Rs 11 crore respectively for Odisha.
The state government, meanwhile, changed the collectors of the three cyclone-affected districts including Puri.