In a display of cooperation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee conducted an aerial survey of the North and South 24 Parganas that were ravaged by Cyclone Amphan, which had killed 80 people.
Modi and Banerjee also presided over an administrative meeting to discuss the extent of damage and the financial assistance required to get the state back on its feet. Emerging from an hour-long meeting at Basirhat in North 24 Parganas, Modi announced an advance interim assistance of Rs 1,000 crore. The Prime Minister also announced assistance of Rs 500 crore for Odisha. The Centre and the state worked to minimise the damage by the cyclone, but despite all efforts 80 lives were lost, Modi said, adding that there was significant damage to property and infrastructure.
State government officials present at the meeting gave a detailed preliminary report on the extent of damage. Additionally, a central team would visit the affected areas to evaluate the loss.
In a rare instance, Banerjee was lauded on Friday for her efforts in dealing with the twin challenges of Covid-19 and Cyclone Amphan.
"We are battling a pandemic on the one hand and there is a cyclone in some parts. Dealing with the pandemic requires social distancing, whereas battling the cyclone requires people to move to safer places," Modi said during a briefing in the presence of Banerjee. “Despite these contradictions, West Bengal is fighting well. We are all with West Bengal in these adverse times,” he added.
Modi also said all aspects relating to rehabilitation, reconstruction would be addressed. "We all want West Bengal to move ahead. The Centre will always stand with West Bengal in these testing times," he said. Apart from the advance assistance, the Prime Minister announced ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of persons, who died in the cyclone, and Rs 50,000 each to persons seriously injured due to the cyclone. Banerjee later said Bengal had suffered losses of Rs 1 trillion. However, no demand was raised, she said, adding that the Prime Minister had been briefed in detail about the situation.
“In this hour of crisis, we must work together,” she said. In the morning, Banerjee received Modi at the Kolkata airport and later accompanied him on an aerial survey along with Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar.
Support for Bengal poured in from all quarters. From President Ram Nath Kovind to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
Till Cyclone Amphan hit Bengal, the state and BJP leaders were engaged in a war of words over the state's handling of Covid-19. However, if Covid-19 had laid bare the strained relations, Amphan appeared to have fostered cooperation between the Centre and the state.