Modi applies Rs 1,500 crore balm to cyclone-scarred Bengal, Odisha

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Kolkata/Bhubaneswar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced an interim assistance of Rs 1,500 crore for West Bengal and Odisha after reviewing the situation caused by cyclone 'Amphan' that claimed 80 lives, lay waste to standing crops in thousands of hectares, and ruined infrastructure.

Modi reviewed the situation in West Bengal and Odisha with chief ministers Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik, two days after the cyclone, the worst in years, devastated their states.

The prime minister announced an interim assistance of Rs 1,000 crore for West Bengal, already battling a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths, besides an influx of migrant labourers, after a review meeting with Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and the state's top officials.

Banerjee, however, insisted that the state had suffered losses of over Rs 1 lakh crore for which it needed to be compensated.

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The prime minister undertook an aerial survey of the vast swamp that many districts have turned into, after the cyclone dumped copious rain on Wednesday and the accompanying winds flattened homes, bludgeoned massive trees to the ground like matchsticks, and plunged city after city into darkness.

After undertaking an aerial survey of the affected areas with Dhankhar and Banerjee, and holding a review meeting with them and top officials, Modi announced an interim relief of Rs 1,000 crore for the state where 80 people have so far lost their lives in the carnage wrought by the cyclone.

Banerjee, however, insisted that the damage caused by the cyclone was "much more than a national disaster" and said the state had suffered losses of no less then Rs 1 lakh crore.

Modi also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh to the families of each of those killed and Rs 50,000 for the injured.

The prime minister later flew down to Odisha, where he announced a financial assistance of another Rs 500 crore, after making an aerial survey of the affected districts with Governor Ganeshi Lal and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

The prime minister said further assistance will be provided for long-term rehabilitation measures after getting a detailed report from the state government.

The leaders undertook an aerial survey of several coastal districts like Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Balasore, Jajpur and Mayurbhanj for about 90 minutes.

Union ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and Pratap Sarangi were among those present at the review meeting Modi held with Patnaik and others at the Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar.

The prime minister complimented both the TMC government of West Bengal and the BJD dispensation in Odisha for squaring up to the challenge posed by the devastation that the cyclone had caused.

Large parts of Kolkata were still plunged into darkness, while mobile internet services played hide and seek.

The turbulence caused by the cyclone has compounded the worries for the two states where the disease is spreading its tentacles fast, fuelled by the return home of lakhs of migrant workers.

"Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic requires social distancing, whereas battling the cyclone entails moving people to safer places," Modi said, acknowledging the fact that the presence of a large number of people in relief shelters in the aftermath of the cyclone could defeat government's attempts at containing the viral nightmare.

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