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Exclusive: What Amphan means for Mamata Banerjee

Sabrangindia 21 May 2020
amphan
Image: Puspal Chakrabarty
 
(Sabrang is first to get the analysis)

Our Mumbai Bureau

If body language tells a story in journalism, then Bengal’s mercurial Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said it all.

She did not shut down a reporter, she did not question her bureaucrats, she did not raise her voice, never asked anyone an informal question like how well the person’s mother recovering from recent illness.

Sitting on a little low-back chair, like every other day, she just concentrated on her phone, perhaps reading messages from district magistrates (collectors) from deep of south of Bengal where Amphan had hit with a velocity that Odhisa and Bangladesh had witnessed many a times over the decades but not West Bengal

“I am stunned. I feel bad,” was one of Ms Banerjee’s quotes.

“99% of south Bengal is destroyed,” is another one, as reported by the online edition of Ananda Bazar Patrika. https://www.anandabazar.com/state/cyclone-amphan-in-west-bengal-mamata-banerjee-addresses-media-on-the-calamity-dgtl-1.1152219?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=daily

“Entire south Bengal is hit. South Bengal is finished. I would request [the Centre] to provide humanitarian relief and not to engage in any politics,” said Ms. Banerjee. (https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/cyclone-amphan-at-least-10-12-feared-killed-as-of-now-mamata/article31635281.ece)

Looking at her body language, a Kolkata journalist remarked on phone: “I have never seen her like that….

amphan

She was on the verge of breaking down in public which she never did at the peak of her struggle against the mighty Communist government or even in the last decade playing it nearly ball-by-ball against the calculative Shah-Modi combine.

“But Wednesday was a different day; she looked sad, dejected, low,” the journalist said.

At one point the Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha had to draw her attention as she was too deeply engrossed in her hand phone, perhaps reading messages from the districts.

One such district report notes that in about half a dozen blocks of South 24 Paraganas, 5000 mud houses collapsed.

At this point no one knows how many have actually died in West Bengal, earlier hit by Corona and a communal riot in Hooghly district.

 

amphan

“May be, 10-12 persons died. But I do not have the figure for certain, at this point,” Ms Banerjee said.

Mamata Banerjee – who has a deep understanding about each block of State’s about 400 blocks – knows that the State is devastated, especially south Bengal.

So, she named the blocks.

 “Patharpratima, Namkhana, Basanti, Kultali, Baruipur, Sonarpur, Bhangar…all have gone,” she said and added after a long pause: “Barrackpore, Basirhat, Barasat, Bongaon sub-divisions and Sunderbans and Gangasagar…all gone too, Howrah (distrct) in bad shape as well.”

“No power, no water, the ponds and the agricultural land….all gone,” she said and paused for an unusually long time, which she never does. Barely a week back she announced a mega-project – Matir Shristi (Creation out of land) to revive rural economy, much on the lines of what Left Front tried towards the last decade of its rule to collectivise land, bring in panchayat and cooperative banks’ funding, to link villages with the cities.

 

amphan

But on Wednesday night she was not upbeat.

From her body language it appeared that all is gone – all of her hopes have shattered – in south Bengal, which is 75% of Bengal, in terms of seats in the Assembly.

This thought – how would Amphan affect Trinamool’s electoral prospects – perhaps is what has keep the lady engrossed late on Wednesday night in the low back seat, in State’s Secretariat, Nabanna, which too was damaged.

Being a grass root level politician, Ms Banerjee knows how difficult it is to take relief to the last village.

It takes months, perhaps years to take relief to the villages.

Even now Aila’s (cyclone of 2006) impact is still felt in parts of deep South 24 Paraganas, especially Sunderbans. In Sunderbans, where migration, flesh trade and business of Ponzy schemes increased following the cyclone.

Amphan hit the same South 24 Praganas and relatively prosperous North 24 Paraganas, second most populous district in the country after Thane.

And that “South and North 24 Paraganas are ruined,” to quote the Chief Minister.

She knows with about 11 months to go for the State’s election, it will be a severely uphill task for Trinamool Congress (TMC) – with a serious organizational loopholes – to plug the gaps and support the people in the last mile of the last village.

amphan

And, the Opposition – especially Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – will cash in one TMC’s failure to reach out to about 100 million people of the State.

As a TMC MP said on Wednesday night, Amphan made life difficult.

“It did” he said.

“But if anyone can bring the party and the State of three successive crisis (Corona driven lock down, riot and Amphan), it is her…she will not give it up. We know and that is the hope, finally,” the MP said.

She endorsed it too in the late night press conference.

“We will overcome the disaster, with your blessing and support,” Ms Banerjee signed off.

Amphan

……………..

Other key quotes of Mamata Banerjee in Wednesday’s press conference (from Ananda Bazar Patrika online edition).

-           It is a riverine State. Entire area is flooded.

-          It is a mayhem now in Bongaon, Habra (in North 24 Paraganas at 9 pm)

-          Will appeal to the Centre, do not assess the issue politically but from a humanitarian point

-          We could remove five lakh people.

-          So many houses destroyed. Agricultural land and dams on rivers too.

-          It is a big loss, few thousands crores, May be few lakh (crores).

-          We have to stand by people in relief camps first

-          Our office (at Nabanna, State Secretariat) damaged too

-          It will take about two weeks to understand the scale of damage.

……………………………..


Photo credit - Puspal Chakrabarty

Exclusive: What Amphan means for Mamata Banerjee

amphan
Image: Puspal Chakrabarty
 
(Sabrang is first to get the analysis)

Our Mumbai Bureau

If body language tells a story in journalism, then Bengal’s mercurial Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said it all.

She did not shut down a reporter, she did not question her bureaucrats, she did not raise her voice, never asked anyone an informal question like how well the person’s mother recovering from recent illness.

Sitting on a little low-back chair, like every other day, she just concentrated on her phone, perhaps reading messages from district magistrates (collectors) from deep of south of Bengal where Amphan had hit with a velocity that Odhisa and Bangladesh had witnessed many a times over the decades but not West Bengal

“I am stunned. I feel bad,” was one of Ms Banerjee’s quotes.

“99% of south Bengal is destroyed,” is another one, as reported by the online edition of Ananda Bazar Patrika. https://www.anandabazar.com/state/cyclone-amphan-in-west-bengal-mamata-banerjee-addresses-media-on-the-calamity-dgtl-1.1152219?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=daily

“Entire south Bengal is hit. South Bengal is finished. I would request [the Centre] to provide humanitarian relief and not to engage in any politics,” said Ms. Banerjee. (https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/cyclone-amphan-at-least-10-12-feared-killed-as-of-now-mamata/article31635281.ece)

Looking at her body language, a Kolkata journalist remarked on phone: “I have never seen her like that….

amphan

She was on the verge of breaking down in public which she never did at the peak of her struggle against the mighty Communist government or even in the last decade playing it nearly ball-by-ball against the calculative Shah-Modi combine.

“But Wednesday was a different day; she looked sad, dejected, low,” the journalist said.

At one point the Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha had to draw her attention as she was too deeply engrossed in her hand phone, perhaps reading messages from the districts.

One such district report notes that in about half a dozen blocks of South 24 Paraganas, 5000 mud houses collapsed.

At this point no one knows how many have actually died in West Bengal, earlier hit by Corona and a communal riot in Hooghly district.

 

amphan

“May be, 10-12 persons died. But I do not have the figure for certain, at this point,” Ms Banerjee said.

Mamata Banerjee – who has a deep understanding about each block of State’s about 400 blocks – knows that the State is devastated, especially south Bengal.

So, she named the blocks.

 “Patharpratima, Namkhana, Basanti, Kultali, Baruipur, Sonarpur, Bhangar…all have gone,” she said and added after a long pause: “Barrackpore, Basirhat, Barasat, Bongaon sub-divisions and Sunderbans and Gangasagar…all gone too, Howrah (distrct) in bad shape as well.”

“No power, no water, the ponds and the agricultural land….all gone,” she said and paused for an unusually long time, which she never does. Barely a week back she announced a mega-project – Matir Shristi (Creation out of land) to revive rural economy, much on the lines of what Left Front tried towards the last decade of its rule to collectivise land, bring in panchayat and cooperative banks’ funding, to link villages with the cities.

 

amphan

But on Wednesday night she was not upbeat.

From her body language it appeared that all is gone – all of her hopes have shattered – in south Bengal, which is 75% of Bengal, in terms of seats in the Assembly.

This thought – how would Amphan affect Trinamool’s electoral prospects – perhaps is what has keep the lady engrossed late on Wednesday night in the low back seat, in State’s Secretariat, Nabanna, which too was damaged.

Being a grass root level politician, Ms Banerjee knows how difficult it is to take relief to the last village.

It takes months, perhaps years to take relief to the villages.

Even now Aila’s (cyclone of 2006) impact is still felt in parts of deep South 24 Paraganas, especially Sunderbans. In Sunderbans, where migration, flesh trade and business of Ponzy schemes increased following the cyclone.

Amphan hit the same South 24 Praganas and relatively prosperous North 24 Paraganas, second most populous district in the country after Thane.

And that “South and North 24 Paraganas are ruined,” to quote the Chief Minister.

She knows with about 11 months to go for the State’s election, it will be a severely uphill task for Trinamool Congress (TMC) – with a serious organizational loopholes – to plug the gaps and support the people in the last mile of the last village.

amphan

And, the Opposition – especially Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – will cash in one TMC’s failure to reach out to about 100 million people of the State.

As a TMC MP said on Wednesday night, Amphan made life difficult.

“It did” he said.

“But if anyone can bring the party and the State of three successive crisis (Corona driven lock down, riot and Amphan), it is her…she will not give it up. We know and that is the hope, finally,” the MP said.

She endorsed it too in the late night press conference.

“We will overcome the disaster, with your blessing and support,” Ms Banerjee signed off.

Amphan

……………..

Other key quotes of Mamata Banerjee in Wednesday’s press conference (from Ananda Bazar Patrika online edition).

-           It is a riverine State. Entire area is flooded.

-          It is a mayhem now in Bongaon, Habra (in North 24 Paraganas at 9 pm)

-          Will appeal to the Centre, do not assess the issue politically but from a humanitarian point

-          We could remove five lakh people.

-          So many houses destroyed. Agricultural land and dams on rivers too.

-          It is a big loss, few thousands crores, May be few lakh (crores).

-          We have to stand by people in relief camps first

-          Our office (at Nabanna, State Secretariat) damaged too

-          It will take about two weeks to understand the scale of damage.

……………………………..


Photo credit - Puspal Chakrabarty

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