Bengali proverb Karor poush mash toh karor sorbonash (Someone’s loss is someone else’s gain) has taken a literal meaning in cyclone-ravaged West Bengal.
On one hand, Cyclone Amphan has wreaked havoc in large parts of south Bengal and affected millions of people, while on the other, it has also opened up livelihood opportunities for electricians and daily wagers sitting idle for more than two months due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
With a shortage of manpower to clear uprooted trees and restore power supply amid protests by people staying without electricity or water for more than five days, civic authorities in several affected areas have employed the labourers and electricians for restoration work.
“There is a shortage of manpower as many employees have been unable to join duty due to the lockdown. Hence, we decided to take the help of local labourers to remove the trees blocking the roads.
Although it is the job of the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) to restore power supply, wires are lying everywhere so we needed the help of local electricians to safely remove them,” a councillor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) told PTI.
Apart from the KMC, authorities of the South Dum Dum and the North Dum Dum municipalities have also engaged daily wagers to remove the uprooted trees from the roads.
“Hundreds of trees have been uprooted in our municipal area, and we are facing a shortage of manpower. So, we have engaged labourers, who were sitting idle at their homes for the last two months, on a daily payment basis,” Abhijit Mitra, a councillor of South Dum Dum municipality said.
Manoj Sarangi, a daily wager who used to work in a sawmill, has been jobless since the imposition of the lockdown.
He has now been engaged by the South Dum Dum municipality for restoration work and is being paid ₹250 every day.
“I didn’t have a job for the last two months and have spent all my savings. This work of removing uprooted trees has saved my family,” he said.
The civic body has employed 100 labourers like Sarangi for the restoration work.
For electrician Sajal Das too, the cyclone has come as a blessing in disguise. After remaining jobless for two months, his hands are now full.
“Earlier, I used to earn ₹500 per day but my earning came to a grinding halt due to the lockdown. But since May 22, two days after the cyclone struck West Bengal, my phone has not stopped ringing,” he said.
“Every day, I am getting calls from people asking me to repair their water pumps or mend electric wires,” he added.
Subal Naskar, a retired technician of the state power department who now runs an electrical appliance shop, too is busy attending to calls for restoration of cable TV network and repair of ceiling fans amid rising mercury levels.