West Bengal State Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar opened up on the CM Mamata Banerjee issue and its handling of the super-cyclone Amphan that ravaged Kolkata and nearby regions last month. In an interview with Rediff, Dhankhar spoke about the aftermath of the cyclone.
Dhankhar was also present in the joint aerial survey of the Amphan-affected areas along with PM Narendra Modi and Banerjee. On being asked about his opinion on the extent of the devastation, he said, "The scale of devastation is such that has not been seen in recent times. Five districts, including Kolkata, have been severely impacted, while 11 others have been affected in varying degrees. The evaluation of the actual scale of devastation, however, is being hampered due to inaccessibility and as the assessment is presently empirical."
He further said that a ray of hope was seen when Mamata Banerjee decided to join the PM and himself for the aerial survey of the devastation caused by Amphan. In the interview, he stated that India is a federation of States and that both Centre and States should be working harmoniously. Having a confrontational stance for both Centre and State will only be regarded as unethical to the spirit of the Constitution and the essence of democracy. "I have suggested to the chief minister several times that this ever-adversarial attitude towards the Centre is immensely hurtful to the welfare of the state and its people," he added.
On the interim assistance of Rs 1,000 crore by PM to the State, the Governor said, "Prime Minister Modi made the visit at the earliest possible time after Amphan and announced an assistance of Rs 1,000 crore that had already reached the State. This would be part of a relief package that would be announced after due evaluation by the State authorities and also the central teams that would be visiting the State soon."
He further said that the State has mentioned a loss of more than Rs 1 trillion and that the amount will vary post evaluation. "For efficiency and efficacy, the benefit must reach the beneficiary directly. That will be more impactful. This was also the stand of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during the 2009 cyclone," he added.
On being asked about the State's level of preparedness in dealing with Amphan, the Governor said that the IMD had issued warnings regarding the cyclone a week before its occurrence and the preparedness left out much of which was desired. He talked about how the State capital Kolkata had been suffering the aftermath for ten days after the cyclone.
People of Kolkata were left without electricity, water, connectivity and essential services. "This kind of frightening scenario could have been avoided had the state government focused more on the level of preparation by distancing itself from political rhetoric. Our State is earthquake and cyclone-prone, and in that view, preparedness is expected to be in high gear, not the one that falls apart like nine pins," he said.
He also talked about the mayhem during the restoration services.
"The unfortunate stand of the State government to shift blame to another agency finds no takers. Electric poles that should have been requisitioned before the landfall of Amphan were ordered later," he added.
On being asked if the army should've been called for assistance earlier, Dhankhar said that since the civic authorities were helpless virtually on all fronts, the army should've been called sooner. "The army, in a short span, acted in an exemplary manner and restored the confidence of the people. It has motivated other agencies to work efficiently," said the Governor before expressing disappointment over the blame-game between agencies which led to the commoners suffer.
However, PM Modi has praised the State's efforts in dealing with the cyclone. Speaking on CM Banerjee's operational style, Dhankhar added, "I too appreciate it (State government's action). She (Mamata Banerjee) is in action mode. But I would not want a general to work as a soldier. No one can say anything about her working pattern. She is extremely energetic and involved. But then she has to take some tough questions."