Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a 15-minute meeting with Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Kalaikunda Air Base in Bengal's West Midnapore district on Friday. The two leaders were to hold a review meeting to assess damage caused by Cyclone Yaas, which tore through Bengal and Odisha last week. Mamata, however, skipped that meet, only staying to give the Prime Minister a report on damages.
"Prime Minister called the meeting... we (her office) didn't know. I had a meeting in Digha (but) I went to Kalaikunda and gave the report asking for £2 billion. I told him you (state officials) wanted to meet me. I took his permission and left," she was quoted as saying. The 15-minute meeting was their first since the April-May Assembly election that Mamata's Trinamool won, despite the opposition mounting a high-profile campaign to capture power. The last time they were face-to-face was on January 23 - at Kolkata's Victoria Memorial to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. On that evening a furious Mamata walked off-stage in a huff after her speech was interrupted with chants of "Jai Shri Ram".
Home minister Amit Shah criticised the CM and said, “Mamata Didi’s conduct today is an unfortunate low. Cyclone Yaas has affected several common citizens and the need of the hour is to assist those affected. Sadly, Didi has put arrogance above public welfare and today’s petty behaviour reflects that.” Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who has a running feud with Mamata, and leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari were at the meeting. Dhankhar later took a swipe at Mamata over her skipping the meeting, saying it was "not in sync with constitutionalism or rule of law".
"It would have served interests of state and its people for CM and officials to attend review meet by PM. Confrontational stance ill serves interests of State or democracy. Non-participation by CM and officials not in sync with constitutionalism or rule of law," he tweeted.
The Prime Minister also took aerial surveys of regions affected by Yaas, which caused havoc across South and North 24 Paraganas, Digha, East Medinipur and Nandigram districts of the state. He later announced £100 million for relief measures. Pound 50 million to be given immediately to Odisha, with equal sums for Bengal and Jharkhand. These will be released on the basis of damage. He also announced Rs 200,000 each for the families of each of those who died in cyclone-related incidents. A sum of Rs 50,000 would be paid to those injured in such incidents.
Mamata said she would undertake her own surveys. She has pegged the damage to her state at £1.5 billlion - including the destruction of 300,000 houses and 134 embankments - and has already announced a rescue package of £100 million.
Cyclone Yaas tore through Bengal and Odisha last week, causing damage worth billions. The Prime Minister has already met Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik; the two met in Bhubaneswar in the morning, after which he conducted an aerial survey in that state.
Patnaik thanked the Prime Minister for visiting the state and said he had informed him of the "large-scale devastation" caused by Cyclone Yaas.
PM Modi issued a statement after his meeting with Patnaik, in which he noted the effective role of central and states agencies in responding to the challenge posed by Yaas. He advised all agencies to ensure the restoration of normal life in the affected areas as soon as possible and asked that relief material is disbursed to all persons affected by the cyclone.
Yaas made landfall on the north Odisha coast - about 20 km south of Balasore - on Wednesday last with 130-140 km per hour winds and 150 km per hour gusts. At least three people died as Yaas hit Odisha. A fourth person died in Bengal's Digha town. Over 100 NDRF teams have been deployed across both states to help in rescue and relief efforts.