Amid protest, Babul visits cyclone-hit areas

Kolkata: Union Minister Babul Supriyo faced black flag demonstration and ‘go back’ slogans from ruling Trinamool Congress workers as he visited cyclone Bulbul-affected people in 24 Parganas South district of West Bengal on Wednesday.

The Trinamool workers waved black flags at Supriyo when the minister reached Namkhana by road from Kolkata. “Babul Supriyo, go back, go back”, they shouted, complaining that the minister was not seen anywhere when the cyclone hit parts of the state on Saturday, leaving 14 dead and thousands of people homeless.

The BJP workers, who were present at the spot, responded with Jai Shri Ram slogans, before Supriyo came out of his car and the police removed the demonstrators.

Supriyo then resumed his journey and met the Bulbbul-hit peple in Namkhana, Fraserganj and Bokkhali by going to the interior parts on motorcycle.

There was another commotion at Fraserganj 10 Mile area where the cyclone victims and BJP workers, who were waiting for the singer-turned-politician since the morning, turned restive on learning that his motorcade had turned back from the nearby Seven Mile area. There were protests and BJP cadres put up a road blockade.

On hearing about the protests, Supriyo, who was driving the car, turned back and came to the area to talk to the party workers and the victims and listen to their grievances.

Many complained they were yet to receive any relief.

“So many people are waiting for me at every locality. They don’t belong to any party. They are the affected people. Some of them have lost the roof of their houses in the cyclone. Everywhere I hear the same story. There is no relief. Despite the meeting of the crisis management committee yesterday, the state government is yet to send any list of the requirements,” said Supriyo.

At Chandannagar Five Mile post office, a woman told Supriyo that her house was completely damaged in the cyclone.

“See, I have come myself because Delhi is being told the Chief Minister (Mamata Banerjee) has made all the arrangements. But on the ground, nothing has been done. I am trying to do everything by tomorrow,” he assured the woman.

Supriyo regretted that the money sent by the Centre for Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana was being misused in the state.

“You are eligible for permanent dwellings under Pradhan Mntri Awas Yojana. But you aren’t getting the grant. The money has been swindled,” he said.

With the area coming under Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency, represented in Parliament by Abhishek Banerjee, Supriyo asked whether the MP had visited the victims.

The victims replied in the negative.

“Have you got any assistance like tarpaulin, or rice or pulses?” the minister asked.

Again the victims said “no”. Supriyo asked his aide to note down the people’s grievances and sped off.

Supriyo took potshots at Banerjee in Bokkhali where he complained that the victims had not been given even a morsel of food over the last five days.

“People are saying they haven’t received food from the government over the past five days. Now that I am going round the area on motorcycle, they are being given food. But see, they have been made to sit on the road. This is the real face of didi (elder sister, as Banerjee is called)”.

The victims echoed Supriyo, who then left the place.

Supriyo, who toured the Bulbul-affected areas at the directive of Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in the morning that no political angle should be given to his visit and warned the Trinamool that if he was stopped, it would mean they don’t want him to get a first-hand idea of the ground situation.

“My visit should not be viewed with a political prism. In a federal structure I am entitled to undertake such visits… This should not be viewed as an effort to supervise or gauge the real picture – that is not possible through a day’s tour.

“The state will give a report on the situation as is the norm. I will also inform Delhi about whatever I see during my visit,” the Minister said.