MHA team in Bengal to review cyclone damage

The Ministry of Home Affairs on Sunday sent a team of three officials to West Bengal to take stock of the impact of Cyclone Yaas in the affected districts. The team is led by a Joint Secretary from the MHA and will stay in the state for three days.

“The team has already left for Kolkata. Over the next two days it will meet key officials in the state and visit affected districts where it will meet the local people,” a ministry official said.

While skipping a cyclone review meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Kalaikunda, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met him for 15 minutes and handed in an assessment report in which she sought a relief package of Rs20,000 crore for people in areas severely affected by the calamity.

However, after surveying the damage in West Bengal and neighbouring Odisha, the PM announced a relief package of Rs1,000 crore for these two states as well as Jharkhand, which was also affected by the cyclone.

The development comes amid growing tension between the Centre and the Mamata Banerjee government over the state’s former chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay skipping a review meeting called by PM Narendra Modi on May 28.

Since then, the Centre has issued a series of orders and notices, which included one asking Bandopadhyay to report on central deputation a day before his retirement and another asking why action should not be taken against him under the Disaster Management Act for arriving at the PM’s meeting 15 minutes late and then leaving immediately.

Bandopadhyay, who chose retirement on May 31 against a three-month extension of service approved by the Centre, has already replied to the DM Act notice sent to him. The Ministry of Home Affairs is currently “studying” the reply and will take a decision on it in due course, sources said.

In his reply, Bandyopadhyay told the Central government that he was scheduled to visit the cyclone-affected areas and was following Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s order. Chief Secretary Hari Krishna Dwivedi, meanwhile, also wrote a letter to the Centre and explained why Bandyopadhyay reached 15 minutes late for the meeting and left immediately.

“The ministry is studying the reply. If needed a legal opinion will also be sought. Accordingly, action will be initiated in due course,” an MHA official said.

Sources said the ministry has options to take administrative action— a bit difficult given that Bandopadhyay has already retired— or statutory action considering that the former chief secretary has been accused of violating provisions of the Disaster Management Act.

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