West Bengal welcomes Aila grant, but says money ‘insufficient’


Kolkata : The allocation of Rs.1,000 crore in the union budget Monday for rebuilding the infrastructure damaged by Cyclone Aila in West Bengal was welcomed by the state government and NGOs working there, but they said the money was insufficient.

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Kanti Ganguly, the minister in charge of the Sundarbans region, said: “We welcome this announcement as the first phase of disbursement. But we need much more.

“We need Rs.1,000 crore just to rebuild the embankments. But to undertake the mammoth reconstruction task, the money required is huge. The sanctioned amount must be released immediately, otherwise it will be of no use,” Ganguly told IANS.

Disaster Management Minister Mortaza Hossain said: “We had asked for the money. I welcome the proposal.”

Tagore society, an NGO which works extensively in the Sundarbans are – which bore the brunt of the Aila fury – said the amount was insufficient.

“If this Rs.1,000 crore had been given to provide immediate relief material to the cyclone victims, then it was fine. But it’s not sufficient to ensure a permanent solution to the millions who have borne the brunt of the cyclonic disaster,” Tushar Kanjilal of Tagore Society for Rural Development told IANS.

He demanded that the union government come up with a complete package to rehabilitate the affected people in the Sundarbans.

Aila tore through 13 of the state’s 19 districts May 25-26, leaving a trail of destruction with houses levelled, trees uprooted, power cables snapped and 138 lives lost. Around 6.1 million people were affected.

Another NGO, WWF, was happy with the Aila-related proposal. “If we only look at Rs.1,000 crore then it’s perhaps not a very huge amount. But if we can add up the allocated amount sanctioned for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) schemes, it’s quite a big amount,” said Subhro Sen, senior programme officer WWF India Sundarbans Programme.

“The state government will have to involve people of Sundarbans in reconstructing the physical infrastructure in that cyclone-hit region,” he said.