Political storm picks up over Jalpaiguri tornado in West Bengal

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee visited people injured in a storm, at a hospital in Jalpaiguri district, on March 31, 2024.
| Photo Credit: PTI

A political storm has erupted over the tornado at Jalpaiguri and other districts of north Bengal with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rushing to the areas affected by the natural disaster.

The death toll in the tornado that had struck parts of north Bengal on March 31 increased to five on April 1. The Chief Minister visited a hospital in Jalpaiguri and met the injured in the early hours of Monday. Later in the day she visited the neighbouring Alipurduar district.

Speaking to journalists Ms. Banerjee said that many people have lost everything and the administration will stand by them in distress. “People have lost everything and are staying at the relief camp in Tapsikhata school. Even though a model code of conduct is in place, a situation of disaster is an emergency and [constitutes an] exceptional case. The administration can take measures for assistance in case of any disaster,” the Chief Minister said.

The scientists at the Regional Meteorological Centre in Kolkata described the weather phenomenon in north Bengal as a tornado.

“We are able to give predictions for cyclones because we can see a signature in our numerical weather system. Since tornadoes occur in a very small area, not only us but scientists in the USA cannot predict them,” Somenath Dutta the head of RMC in Kolkata said.

Hundreds of people had suffered injuries in the tornado which lasted for about four minutes. Jalpaiguri town, parts of Maynaguri, and parts of Alipurduar has been affected by the natural phenomenon which raged several houses to the ground, destroyed crops, and resulted in death of large number of cattle.

Along with the Chief Minister, Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari and Trinamool Congress general secretary Abhishek Banerjee all reached the areas affected by the tornado.

Mr. Adhikari said that the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, visit to the hospital was a photo opportunity. “We do not have chartered flights like the Chief Minister. We have to wait for commercial flights. This is because the Trinamool Congress has received a lot of money through the electoral bonds,” the BJP leader said.

The remarks triggered strong reaction from the Chief Minister’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee. “If the Chief Minister can visit those affected by the natural disaster, so can the Prime Minister, who is fond of visiting safari parks,” the Trinamool Congress leader said.

Mr. Banerjee also raised the issue of stoppage of funds under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. ”Had BJP-led Central government released the funds for Awas Yojana to Bengal, the common people of this area, women and children would not have been hurt or injured severely. The BJP-led Centre is highly responsible for this,” the Trinamool general secretary said.

BJP leader and Bardhaman Durgapur candidate Dilip Ghosh said that a storm of the BJP was raging across north Bengal. Mr. Ghosh’s remarks were described as insensitive by the Trinamool Congress.

The areas of districts in Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, and Coochbehar which have been affected by the cyclone are going to elections in the first phase scheduled on April 19. According to reports received by the office of Chief Electoral Officer, West Bengal, 11 polling stations within Jalpaiguri Lok Sabha seat in Maynaguri area have been damaged along with a distribution centre and receiving centre at Coochbehar and steps are being taken at war footing to ensure that voters do not face any problem in the upcoming elections.

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