PM announces Rs 1000 crore aid for Bengal; toll at 86

PM announces Rs 1000 crore aid for Bengal; toll at 86

KOLKATA/BHUBANESWAR/NEW DELHI: PM Narendra Modi on Friday announced interim central assistance of Rs 1,000 crore to West Bengal and Rs 500 crore to Odisha after an aerial survey of the devastation wrought by cyclone Amphan, especially in south Bengal, where the death toll was revised to 86 after government agencies were able to reach areas inaccessible for two days.

On his first trip outside the national capital since the countrywide lockdown started, PM Modi said the loss of lives, homesteads, infrastructure and standing crops were a double whammy for Bengal after being hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Staying home and social distancing are the safeguards against corona, whereas moving out from homes and reaching safer places are advisable in case of a cyclone. The state had to fight the two challenges together. However, West Bengal, under Mamata ji, has tried to fight strongly,” he said in an eight-minute video message from Basirhat in North 24-Parganas district.

Expressing solidarity with

Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee

, who has had run-ins with the Centre on multiple issues, Modi said, “The Centre was in constant touch with the state government and the two jointly worked hard. Still, over 80 people lost their lives, which saddens me.”

He announced ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh to the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to the injured from the PM’s Relief Fund.

The PM said a central team would visit the state soon and both the governments would “work together for the rehabilitation, restoration and reconstruction of the West Bengal”.

He and Mamata held an hour-long administrative meeting in Basirhat.

Mamata later said she urged the PM to “release quickly whatever money” the Centre wanted to give. “I did not ask for anything (from the PM). I only urged him to release the money fast, whatever the Centre wants. Else, we will have to start work on our own. Repair of embankments and restoration of power lines cannot wait. The state has already put aside Rs 1,000 crore on its own for restoration work. We also want the centre to release the Rs 53,000 crore it owes us (by way of devolution of funds, food subsidy and other social schemes).”

Preliminary estimates by the state government peg the extent of damage caused by Amphan at “Rs 1 lakh crore at least”.

“Vast areas have gone under water following the damage in embankments. Power lines got snapped, crops went under water. There has been immense damage

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