Days after cyclone Amphan left a trail of devastation in the state, West Bengal continued its effort to come back to its own feet — with efforts being made to clear out roads, restore electricity and phone likes that had been hampered in several parts of the state.
Even as many neighbourhoods in Kolkata stayed without electricity for days, the BJP was preparing a “chargesheet” against Banerjee in preparations for the polls next year.
The Centre, meanwhile, released Rs 1,000 crore to the West Bengal government and a team of the Union government will visit the state soon to assess the damage caused by Cyclone Amphan.
No electricity, residents protest
Amid protests in Kolkata over no electricity in many parts, Mayor and TMC leader Firhad Hakim blamed the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC).
Reports said that the residents of Kolkata and other districts affected by Amphan protested against the lack of electricity and water.
Anandabazar Patrika reported that locals blocked a road near the Bhadreshwar station in Hooghly by throwing tree stumps. There were protests in endiya Khejuri-1 block of East Midnapore, Barasat-Taki road in Kartikpur of North 24 Parganas and the NH 34 at Gorpara intersection in Chakdaha, Nadia
The report said that vast areas of South 24 Parganas, including the Sundarbans, were still without electricity. Out of 62 sub stations in the district, 15 were out of order after 46,000 poles have been uprooted.
Hakim squarely blamed CESC for the situation and said, “People’s protests are mainly due to the lack of water and light. CESC is responsible for this. Enough is enough.”
There were also protests in Kolkata.
The Telegraph reported that residents took to streets in Jadavpur, Prince Anwar Shah Road, Naktala, Ranikuthi, Behala, Parnasree, Dum Dum and Belghoria among other areas because of lack of power.
However, PTI reported the army and NDRF teams, assisted by personnel of the state disaster relief force, made significant progress in removing uprooted trees from the city’s arterial roads.
80-85% telecom connectivity restored, says providers
Even as the power outage in the state made residents angry, telecome providers in the state said that 80-85% capacity level was restored. They said that supply was erratic of lack of electricity, continued fibre cuts and obstruction by people protesting against disruption in electricity and water supply.
Cellular Operators Association of India Director General Rajan S Mathews told PTI “The overall telecom network has been restored to about 85 per cent level. The main reasons are erratic power supply, fibre cuts and problems in reaching places because roads are blocked by fallen trees and also obstruction by agitated people.”
He said that people in some parts of Kolkata, and North and South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal gheraoed telecom personnel who went to restore mobile towers.
“People have been agitating that they are not getting electricity. Hence, they block teams from restoration work. Fibre cuts have come down, but still going on,” Mathews said.
According to the Tower & Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), power supply situation in Kolkata has improved immensely, but it will take a while for electricity to get stable.
“Diesel generators, batteries and field rescue team are kept on readiness in case any situation arises. 90 per cent of the connectivity of private players has been restored in most of the areas of West Bengal, and Kolkata, North and South Parganas still remains a challenge,” TAIPA Director General T R Dua said.
The industry has also requested the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to help them in availability of diesel in some of the areas like North 24 and South 24 Parganas, East Midnapore and Howrah.
“The matter has been taken further by DoT for smooth operations,” Dua said.
According to industry sources, the government-run BSNL is working only at 60-65 per cent capacity due to which overall connectivity is now between 80-85 per cent, while 90 per cent of capacity of private operators has been restored.
However, the BSNL denied the claim.
BSNL Chairman and Managing Director P K Purwar said that the company’s network is working at 75 per cent level in the Kolkata circle.
Earlier in the day, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a tweet, said that he spoke to Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash, BSNL CMD and Chief General Managers (CGMs) of West Bengal and Odisha.
“Asked them to expedite restoration of telephone lines. They are doing their best though there are issues of power supply and removal of uprooted trees. Told them to work with local authorities & get it expedited,” Prasad said.
BJP plays politics
The BJP mounted criticism on chief minister Mamata Banerjee amid the dire situation in the state and said that it was preparing a “chargesheet” against the chief minister to count her short comings.
The Telegraph quoted Sayantan Basu, one of the general secretaries of the BJP in Bengal, as saying, “Apart from Cyclone Amphan, the government has also mishandled the Covid-19 outbreak in the state. All these issues will have special focus in our chargesheet.”
However, the report said, that party members in the state were not comfortable with the idea because of the timing of it.
“It is nothing but politics as the moot question here is what took them five days to hit the streets?” an anonymous BJP insider told The Telegraph. (Read the entire article here.)
(With PTI inputs)