Can fix the BJP West Bengal
Cyclone Amphan hit West Bengal and neighboring Bangladesh last week. About 450,000 people were evacuated before his arrival. Amphan whipped over Calcutta with winds of 110 to 120 kilometers per hour and heavy rains. The city has seen nothing as terrifying and nightmarish as this storm in more than 250 years.
West Bengal has suffered the most damage, with - according to recent reports - 86 deaths and severe devastation in three districts. It also affected the Sundarbans, the unique, fragile mangrove forest ecosystem that acts as the main line of defense against cyclones in the Bay of Bengal. Trees were uprooted, houses and crops destroyed, river banks damaged, and road connections broken. More than 5000 trees were uprooted in Calcutta. Electricity pylons toppled, transformers exploded, telephone and Internet services failed. The West Bengali Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, otherwise a lively lady, was stunned when she observed the situation from the control room. "We are destroyed," she said.
The next morning, perturbed and disoriented, people realized the extent of the devastation. In large parts of Calcutta there was no electricity. Fallen trees had blocked roads, damaged houses and tore power cables, exposing them dangerously. In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and the exit restrictions, Amphan looks twice as bad.
State authorities faced the unenviable challenge of swift rescue and repairs under the constraints imposed by lockdown. However, this was barely reported in the Indian media. Prime Minister Modi finally took a scenic flight over the affected areas last Friday, and the next day the army was deployed to restore important infrastructure and services. Electricity is gradually returning to Calcutta.
Despite the corona-related lockdown, there was spontaneous local support, community-based relief and rescue measures. However, the BJP - which is in the opposition in West Bengal and is aiming for a seat in the state parliament in the 2021 elections - took the opportunity to claim that the government was collapsing in the face of the crisis. This found an echo in the indignation of a bourgeois elite over the blackout, which reveals both urban inequality and injustice as well as the idiosyncratic blindness and egoism of the privileged.
Historian Ramachandra Guha wrote that the situation of migrant workers after the lockdown was the "greatest man-made tragedy" in India since the country was partitioned in 1947. In West Bengal, workers who somehow managed to close their villages after unspeakable hardship reach, now find that their homes no longer exist. Cyclone Amphan could have left up to 500,000 families homeless.
In 1993 there was a severe earthquake in Latur, Maharashtra state. There, as a member of a damage assessment team, I met a soldier who was sitting on a heap of rubble; nothing more was left of his village. He pondered that his home and family had been the focus of his life. Now there was nothing and he was trying to cope with it. At the time I had to think about what John Berger wrote: "Home is the center of the world because it is the place where a vertical line crosses a horizontal line. The vertical line, a path that leads to heaven and leads down to the underworld. The horizontal line that represents the traffic of the world, all possible roads that lead across the earth to other places. This is how one is closest to the gods in heaven and the dead in the underworld. This closeness promises Access to both. And at the same time you are at the starting point and hopefully also at the point of return of all earthly journeys. "
V. Ramaswamy, born in 1960, is a teacher, author, translator, social planner and citizen activist. Translated from the English by Christine Dössel.
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