Bhubaneswar, Oct 22:
The BJD government’s large scale evacuation of people in Odisha saving many lives during the Cyclone Phailin was not the first such act, The Congress government had done the same in 1999, senior state Congress leader Niranjan Patnaik said on Tuesday.
Odisha was hit by two successive cyclones in 1999. One of them hit Gopalpur on October 18-19, while a super cyclone made landfall in Mahanadi delta area on October 28 and 29, said Patnaik.
“The cyclone that hit Gopalpur was similar to the Phailin. Evacuation was successfully carried out there and there were ‘zero causalities’ despite the India Meteorological Department giving only a two-hour alert to the state government,” the Congress leader claimed.
The present BJD government has been confusing people between the super cyclone in Mahanadi delta where there were considerable loss of life and the Gopalpur cyclone where there was no casualty,” said Patnaik, who was the state’s energy minister at that time.
“Gopalpur is 25 feet above sea level and historically there has been no casualties even as cyclones made land falls there in 1971, 1972, 1999 and 2013,” he said.
Contrary to the UPA government’s all out support to the BJD government now, Patnaik said, the then NDA government provided no support to the Giridhar Gamang government in 1999 when the cyclone hit Gopalpur on October 18-19.
“The then Defence Minister George Fernandes and Naveen Patnaik as a central minister had visited Gopalpur. But Ganjam got no financial assistance from the Centre,” he claimed.
Even after the super cyclone, the Centre refused to declare that as a ‘national calamity’ and the assistance the state got was a pittance, Patnaik alleged.
But this time, the Centre, the IMD, the National Disaster Response Force have provided excellent support to the state administration in dealing with the calamity, he said.
In a letter to Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, Patnaik has requested the latter for a special relief and rehabilitation package in view of the extensive damage by the Cyclone Phailin in South Odisha, particularly in Ganjam district and subsequent floods in the northern districts of Mayurbhanj and Baleswar.
Notably, the Agriculture Minister heads the inter-Ministerial group (IMG) that will take a final call on the amount of money to be provided to Odisha.
“I request that the Central government should maintain this spirit and not neglect the state in providing assistance under the NCCF. The state gets money from the Planning Commission for acquiring capabilities for dealing with calamities and thanks to the UPA Government, the state has been receiving generous support of plan funds and the state’s capabilities have improved as also the capabilities of central agencies. But, the relief and rehabilitation assistance comes from mainly NCCF, which will not be adequate” Patnaik said.
“Our past experience is that the BJD government has become an expert in putting their party symbols to all centrally sponsored programs to claim credit while continuing to campaign on ‘central neglect’. Despite the hypocrisy of the BJD, I request the Central government to take an objective view above partisan consideration and provide at least four times more money than was provided by the NDA Government after the 1999 Super Cyclone,” Patnaik said.