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Cyclone Amphan: West Bengal government calls in Army for restoration of essential services

Free Press Journal 2020-05-23 19:24:56

The West Bengal Government on Friday called in the Army to help with the restoration of electricity and other essential services after people protested outside their homes and blocked roads with fallen trees on Saturday in the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan.

“GOWB mobilizes maximum strength in unified command mode on 24X7 basis for immediate restoration of essential infrastructure and services asap. Army support has been called for, NDRF and SDRF teams deployed. Rlys, Port and private sector too requested to supply teams and equipment. Drinking water and drainage infrastructure getting restored fast, (sic)” reads a tweet by the Government of West Bengal’s official handle.

“PHE asked to supply water pouches in gap pockets. Generators being hired where necessary. More than a hundred teams from multiple departments and bodies are working to cut fallen trees, which is key to restoration of power in localities. WBSEDCL and CESC asked to deploy maximal manpower, even while lockdown significantly affects the deployment potential of the latter. Police on high alert,” the tweet goes on to say.   

The Ministry of Home Affairs said that after receiving a request from the Principal Secretary Disaster Management and Civil Defence, Government of West Bengal, 10 additional National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams have been mobilized and would be sent to the state by Friday itself. At present 26 NDRF teams are deployed in cyclone affected areas of the state for restoration work. With the additional deployment, 36 teams in total will now work in six districts to restore basic essential services to people.  

On Saturday, protests were seen across the state which is still reeling under COVID-19 lockdown even as it tries to cope with the effects of the cyclone. However, with many houses devastated by the cyclone, people now have to fend for basic essential services like food, water and electricity.

With fallen trees damaging overhead and underground electricity cables, people are protesting against the slow response of state authorities and the electricity department. Essential food services are also hiving difficulty in reaching many areas of the state that have been cut off by roads blocked by fallen trees, wall collapses and damaged vehicles.   

In Titagarh in North 24 Parganas district, people hurled bricks at police vehicles and torched them. Police had to resort to lathicharge to disperse the crowds. In other parts of the state like in Howrah, people blocked the roads with trees as a symbol of protest. Following this, the police had to reach the spot to pacify people and ensure that the roads were cleared.

The protests also pose a danger of social distancing norms not being maintained. It is necessary to remember that the coronavirus pandemic is still looming large over West Bengal which has over 3000 cases and 200 deaths.