Social media erupted in anger on Thursday (May 21) alleging that the Centre has neglected West Bengal which bore the maximum brunt of cyclone Amphan that made landfall on May 20 evening.
Amphan, perhaps the worst cyclone to have hit the state in decades, has caused severe damages in Kolkata, and several districts including Howrah, Hooghly, and North and South 24 Paraganas. At least 72 people have died in West Bengal due to the cyclone, according to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
As the storm began ravaging the coastal and nearby regions, the social media got flooded with photos and videos of destruction. And soon it erupted into a flood of questions alleging the Centre’s lack of support in this time of crisis.
We have been officially abandoned by our Union Government and the ruling party!!!Not a single tweet since yesterday…
Many pointed out that neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor Union Home Minister Amit Shah had tweeted throughout the day about the disaster. Both Modi and Shah tweeted about the calamity only a day later (May 21) and promised help.
“Have been seeing visuals from West Bengal on the devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan. In this challenging hour, the entire nation stands in solidarity with West Bengal. Praying for the well-being of the people of the state. Efforts are on to ensure normalcy,” the prime minister said in a tweet.
Dear BJP leaders, extending a helping to West Bengal government after a massive natural calamity is called humanity. #amphan
— Soumyajit Maity (@maity_sj) May 21, 2020
We have not seen any Bengal MP at cyclone site to help people except Govt officials. Its time to serve people at ground, if bjp wants to retrun their due to people as many seats got in WB. Else just tweets on social media,no work at ground level.
— @Reddy Devaraj (@ReddyDevaraj) May 21, 2020
Bengali filmmaker Pratim D. Gupta tweeted addressing the prime minister, “Sir @narendramodi, Bengal is a part of India,” and even shared how he was being abused for his tweet. “No one blamed the PM for the cyclone. He is a very powerful man but even for him to orchestrate a cyclone of this severity is bit of a stretch. Was only asking for some attention and help in this hour of catastrophe which has unfortunately been missing,” he said.
— PDG (@PratimDGupta) May 21, 2020
The Centre should consider yesterday's cyclone a national disaster & release funds for help. The damage to life and property has been devastating to say the least. The poor have suffered the most as always despite all precautions taken.
— Aparna Sen (@senaparna) May 21, 2020
What kind of sick, inhumane politics is it, that people have to plead with their central government to declare a national disaster a national disaster? KOLKATA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT right now. Why is the national media still silent? #AmphanCyclone #kolkataairport #bengal pic.twitter.com/7XOWfNNGc9
— Swastika Mukherjee (@swastika24) May 21, 2020
Eminent personalities like Aparna Sen also demanded the Centre to release funds for the cyclone-hit state.
Meanwhile, Banerjee was on Wednesday seen monitoring the situation from the state’s emergency operation centre at state secretariat Nabanna, and a photo of it soon began circulating on social media, thus painting an image of the “saviour” of the state in the time of a calamity.
“Cyclone Amphan has left a trail of devastation beyond our thoughts. While the material damage is substantial, Bengal stands united in this time of crisis. Together we will overcome this because nothing can dampen the spirit and strength of the people of Bengal,” the chief minister said in a tweet on Thursday.
আমফানের প্রকোপে যে প্রাণহানি ঘটেছে বা সম্পত্তি নষ্ট হয়েছে তার জন্যে আমি মর্মাহত । আমি গত কয়েকদিন ধরে ক্রমাগত বিভিন্ন এজেন্সির সাথে সম্পর্ক রেখে চলেছিলাম। তাদের দায়িত্ববোধ ফলে ন্যুনতম ক্ষতি হয়েছে। (1/2) pic.twitter.com/99vYqP2OXh
— Governor West Bengal Jagdeep Dhankhar (@jdhankhar1) May 21, 2020
The criticism only intensified when Governor Jagadeep Dhankhar tweeted as social media users chose to differ with his comment that the state had suffered “nunnotomo khoti (minimal damage)” due to the cyclone.
এটা নুন্যতম ক্ষতি?? নুন্যতম শব্দের অর্থ আপনি বোঝেন আদেও?? একটা গাছ ভেঙে আপনার পায়ের কাছে পড়লে বুঝতেন কেমন লাগে।
— Anwesha Chakraborty (@Anwesha93543438) May 21, 2020
Pointing out to the word, a user asked him whether he knew the meaning of it. “Is it minimal damage? Do you understand the meaning of the word at all? You would understand how it feels if a tree fell on your leg,” the Twitter user replied to Dhankhar.
ন্যূনতম ক্ষতি?!!! এতগুলো মানুষের প্রাণ গেছে, অসংখ্য মানুষ গৃহহীন, চাষের জমি, পুকুর, ঘর, বাড়ি, বাঁধ, রাস্তা সব তছনছ! একে ন্যূনতম বলে?? লজ্জা করে না আপনার? #DeclareNationalDisaster
— Madhurima (@Madhurima_ML) May 21, 2020
“Minimum damage? So many lives have been lost, countless people are homeless, farmland, ponds, houses, dams, roads are all destroyed! Do you call it minimal? Aren’t you ashamed?” another Twitterati replied.
Amphan has caused horrific devastation in Bengal and Odisha. Immediate relief and rehabilitation is the priority. Deepest condolences to families of those who lost their lives. We expect the Centre to declare this a national calamity.
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) May 21, 2020
There was also a demand of declaring the cyclone a national calamity as several social media users came forward for such a move. “Amphan has caused horrific devastation in Bengal and Odisha. Immediate relief and rehabilitation is the priority… We expect the Centre to declare this a national calamity,” said CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury.
6K houses broken in just a small area Bhangar 2. Imagine the scale of devastation elsewhere.
Central govt should immediately calling out it #NationalDisaster#prayforwestbengal #AmphanCyclon pic.twitter.com/029SRgKQsY
— Tamim Akhtar (@and_tamim) May 21, 2020
Meanwhile, electricity is yet to be restored in several parts of Kolkata, and other districts. Residents are also complaining of poor mobile network and internet connectivity, even in the heart of the state capital.