Fani Brings Rivals Closer Together

Bhubaneswar: Weeks before they were bashing each other. But severe cyclonic storm Fani makes them ebrace each other. Yes, we are talking about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

On April 23 PM Modi criticised Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik heavily in Kendrapara. During his public meeting PM said that Naveen Patnaik’s exit is certain in Odisha.

During his public meeting in Kendrapara, Modi said,

I have been maintaining decorum in public as I wanted Naveen babu should bow out in dignity. But BJD’s act of desperation in unleashing violence against BJP workers, like Bengal, compelled me to speak out. Naveen babu your exit is certain. A handful of officials cannot save you, Naveen babu.

Similarly Naveen Patnaik too lashes out Modi during his election campaigns in the state.

During an interview with a national news channel, Patnaik said,

Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not deserve a second term as he has not been successful. During the last five years, there has been no improvement in unemployment, irrigation and railways. Vajpayee had a bigger stature than Modi, knew how to run coalitions. Farmers will teach the BJP a lesson.

On April 28, elections in Odisha ended. And after 5 days, an extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani caused havoc in coastal Odisha, killing 64 people so far and rendering over 5 lakh people homeless, apart from causing huge loss to the state’s economy and infrastructure.

However, this time the support of the BJP led NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is something new. Never before had Odisha got the support that Modi has extended this time. Off course the state is grateful to him.

Entire Odisha was on its toes as the IMD forecast that the cyclone would hit the state between Gopalpur to Chandbali. As the system came closer, the weather scientists zeroed in on Puri. It was natural on the part of the state government to remain on high alert. But, the cyclone this time also put the entire nation on alert as Modi himself kept a tab on the movement of the system.

In the midst of his election schedules, PM Modi kept on monitoring the “fatal element” in the sea when it was about 1,000 kilometer from the coast. “I was constantly monitoring the cyclone in the midst of the elections,” Modi said when he visited the devastated state barely three days after Fani’s landfall. He is the first Prime Minister of India, who saw the devastation of any cyclone just after its landfall.

The State Government’s presentation before the Prime Minister at the airport was the real eye opener for him. The presentation was made in such a professional manner that it caught the imagination of the PM, said Development Commissioner Asit Tripathy, who was the brain behind the presentation. Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) Bishnupada Sethi played a key role in making presentation to the point.

And the PM stood up to take action and went all out to help Odisha. As the PM himself was giving so much importance to the calamity, the entire Union Government Administration and Ministries had to act swiftly.

Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha continuously reviewed Odisha situation on daily basis in the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) and spoke to Odisha Chief Secretary A P Padhi frequently. Sinha kept all the requests of Padhi as Cabinet Secretary felt that Odisha Chief Secretary makes only genuine requests.

On previous occasions, the state government had to send several reminders for financial assistance to meet the challenge. This time, on 29 April Modi asked the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to immediately release Rs 341 crore for Odisha SDRF much ahead of the cyclone’s landfall.

Before the cyclone stuck the state, he had ensured that the state should not face any difficulty for “Men, Machine and Money.” And money landed in Odisha’s kitty within 48 hours!

Immediately after visiting the cyclone battered areas, Modi held a review meeting at the airport itself where Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik demanded Rs 1,000 crore as interim assistance. The Prime Minister took no time to sanction the amount at the review meeting itself.

The PM asked NDRF to get positioned in Odisha’s coastal districts before Fani made landfall. He sanctioned money, sent men in the form of NDRF and also equipped them with sophisticated machines to undertake relief and rescue operation.

Mr.Modi also ensured that Indian Air Force, Indian Navy, Indian Coastguard and Army remained prepared to face the challenge. Odisha has never before witnessed such a full proof “bandobast” in air, water and land to tackle a storm.

And he rushed an Inter-Ministerial Committee of Union Government headed by MHA Additional Secretary Vivek Bharadwaj to assess damages caused by the cyclone. The Central Team visited the worst hit areas within 10 days of the landfall.

“It’s terrible,” said a Central Team Member while Mr. Bharadwaj said that central teams used to visit the calamity hit areas after one month. But this time, they reached the affected people within 10 days.

After reaching New Delhi he asked Secretaries of Power, Telecom, Finance and other Ministries to rush to Odisha and ensure that the restoration work goes on in speed. Union Power Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, who rarely visits any state, was told to visit the worst-hit Puri district and ensure that the power infrastructure be restored on war footing.

Central PSUs like NTPC and PGCIL were immediately deployed with highly technical manpower and machinery in Puri which resulted electricity reaching Shree Jaganath Temple only 12 days after the cyclone. Keeping in view the quantum of damages, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said: “The damage is so severe that we have to rebuild the power infrastructure in Puri district afresh.”

All the Odisha’s requirements were duly fulfilled as Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan immediately sanctioned 1,000 kilolitre of kerosene for the state and OIL India was asked to donate Rs.3.2 crore to CMRF.

This is not all, the Oil PSU, Indian Oil also immediately sanctioned Rs 5 crore for the repair and restoration of damages caused to Shree Jagannath Temple. It also sanctioned another Rs 5 crore for Konark.

Another prompt action is also seen when ASI DG Usha Sharma was seen inspecting Shree Jagannath Temple and Sun Temple, Konark in less than 24 hours of Chief Minister writing a letter to Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma to assess the damage caused to the two temples.

As 1.56 lakh electric poles were damaged, the SAIL was prompt to supply 60,000 poles within a week of the calamity while Indian Railways ensured normalcy in train service by 12 May. Similarly, telecom, banking and other concerned Ministries also rushed to Odisha and looked after their respective sectors.

All these were possible only due to the pro-active stand of the Prime Minister. And most importantly, Prime Minister Office (PMO) regularly monitored the situation in Odisha. Additional Principal Secretary to Prime Minister P K Mishra, who visited Odisha along with PM continuously, monitored the activities, which speeded up the process. And this was an unusual phenomenon in PMO, which helped the State, admits officials.

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Odisha Story Bureau
A team of young journalists headed by Subhransu Panda, founder-editor of Odisha's leading news portal and magazine Odisha Story. Mail: editor@odishastory.com