The central government stands with West Bengal in these testing times and will provide immediate advance assurance of Rs 1,000 crore, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday as he wrapped up a visit to the state that had been battered by cyclone Amphan this week. This is Modi's first outstation visit in nearly three months.
Narendra Modi was received at the airport by governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee - who accompanied him on the aerial survey of some of the worst-affected parts of the state before landing near a school in Basirhat, 50 km from Kolkata airport.
Modi held a review meeting at the school where Mamata Banerjee pitched for greater central assistance to help people rebuild their lives. Banerjee said at least 80 people had been killed in Bengal due to the cyclone, many due to electrocution.
In a brief statement to the media after the meeting, Modi said the Centre and state are working together to provide all possible help to people.
"All aspects relating to rehabilitation, reconstruction will be addressed. We all want West Bengal to move ahead. The Centre will always stand with West Bengal in these testing times," Modi said.
Narendra Modi didn't get into Mamata Banerjee's demand to declare the cyclone that had wreaked havoc in the state as a 'national disaster'.
In government rules, there is no provision for such a notification but political parties in states hit by disasters routinely make this demand to underscore that the Centre should loosen the purse strings and give more assistance than would be permissible under disaster management rules.
Mamata Banerjee has complained for a few days that the Centre wasn't moving enough to help Bengal. "We haven't received any money to fight the Covid-19 pandemic till date," the chief minister told reporters after cyclone Amphan left behind a trail of destruction and damage.
Help should arrive fast and not after 500 days, she told reporters at a press conference on Thursday. It was at the same event that she had appealed to PM Modi to visit the state to see the damage for himself.
Narendra Modi's public announcement of Rs 1,000 crore advance assurance was designed to address this complaint.
Modi said Rs 2 lakh would be given to the next of kin of persons who died in the cyclone and Rs 50,000 each to persons seriously injured.