Basanti (West Bengal), May 31 (IANS) Visiting the cyclone-affected South 24 Parganas district Sunday, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had to face protests from angry villagers who alleged that relief remained inadequate even a week after the disaster.
The villagers asked the chief minister why he had come to this block so late. 'Why is it that the government has not been able to send relief to us even a week after the cyclone struck?' said a youth when Bhattacharjee reached the office of the block development officer in a large convoy of cars.
The chief minister, however, dealt with the situation in a composed manner and assured the villagers that there would be no dearth of relief material.
Bhattacharjee later boarded a launch from Sonakhali and reached Bali-II under the worst-affected Gosaba block.
The chief minister visited a relief camp housed at Adarsha Vidyamandir and spoke to the victims and district officials.
'Everything will be normal soon. Don't worry. We are making all arrangements,' the chief minister told the sufferers who narrated to him their tales of woe.
At his meeting with officials, Bhattacharjee discussed issues concerning providing immediate relief and long-term restoration plans with regard to roads, powers and embankments.
The chief minister said his government was trying to ensure that the central government declared the tragedy as a national calamity.
A television channel carried a report that some relief workers were kept confined in a tin room at Sonakhali for hours by the district administration on the plea of the chief minister's safety, but officials denied the report.
'Nothing of that sort happened. The relief workers had taken shelter in the room,' said Inspector General of Police (South Bengal) Surajit Kar Purakayastha.
Railways Minister and opposition Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, however, came down heavily on the state's Left Front government and said the incident showed it was not ready to accept any criticism.
'These poor people were kept confined in a room so that they can't articulate their grievances. They (the government) are afraid of people. They do not believe in democracy and lack a humane approach,' Banerjee told the media in Kolkata.
So far, 125 deaths have been reported in the cyclone which tore through extensive parts of the state Monday levelling houses, uprooting trees, snapping power cables and leaving a trail of destruction in 13 of the 19 districts.
Nearly 600,000 houses have been fully or partially damaged in the calamity which has affected over six million people.
South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas districts have been the worst-hit and hundreds of villages continued to be marooned with salt water intrusion destroying the paddy crops.