People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 50

December 15, 2013






‘Declare Odisha Cyclone a National Calamity’

Centre Feels Compelled to Shell out Rs 300 Crore


ON December 5, 2013, a five-member delegation from the Odisha state unit of the CPI(M) met the president of India at New Delhi, followed by a meeting with the union home minister the next day. The delegation consisted of the CPI(M) state secretary Janardan Pati, its state secretariat members Santosh Das, Ali Kishore Patnaik and Bishnu Mohanty, and former MLA Laxman Munda. It was led by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury who is leader of the CPI(M) group in Rajya Sabha and by Basudeb Acharia, leader of the CPI(M) group in Lok Sabha.


Drawing attention of the president and the home minister of India to the enormous losses the state of Odisha has suffered because of a terrible cyclone and excessive raining in October 2013, the CPI(M) delegation submitted to them a memorandum wherein it demanded that Odisha’s calamity must be declared a “national calamity” and Rs 5,000 crore immediately given to Odisha as a special package from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF). The delegation also demanded suitable changes in the NDRF/SDRF norms so that they reflect the losses the people of Odisha have suffered.


The president assured the delegation that he would discuss the issue with the prime minister. On the other hand, after meeting the delegation, the union home minister assured that an assistance of Rs 300 crore would be issued for the state on the same day. Later on the day, this amount was indeed released for Odisha; this was as the first instalment of the assistance of Rs 1,000 crore which the central government had promised for the state of Odisha. One may note that before the CPI(M)’s intervention the state government of Odisha had not received any help from the centre.




After the delegation’s meeting with the union home minister, CPI(M) state secretary Janardan Pati addressed a press conference at the CPI(M) headquarters, A K Gopalan Bhavan, in New Delhi, raising questions about the seriousness and sincerity of the centre’s attitude vis-à-vis the magnitude of the horrendous cyclone in Odisha. He said even despite such a terrible calamity, not a single central minister had so far deemed it necessary to visit the state and assess the losses. He also reminded the press people that when the state had suffered a terrible cyclone in 1999, during the NDA regime at the centre, the then prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, too had not thought it necessary to visit the state. Pati also said Odisha had suffered cyclones and other natural calamities as many as 98 times in a period of 110 years, from 1891 to 2000, and the neglect meted out to the people on all such occasions by the various governments has been the prime factor behind the state’s backwardness.


The CPI(M) state secretary also informed that the chief minister of Odisha too had not so far come forward despite the repeated requests that he must call an all-party meeting on the issue of how to cope with the disaster and the consequent losses, and also that he must lead an all-party delegation to Delhi in order to put forward the state’s demands before the centre. While not talking about the chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s intentions, despite some queries from the press people, Pati expressed the hope that the chief minister would indeed listen to the demand, call an all-party meeting in the state and lead an all-party delegation to the centre.


CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury was also present on the occasion.


The memorandum the CPI(M)’s Odisha state unit submitted to the president, pointed out that the devastating cyclonic storm during October 2013 and the incessant rain and severe flood which occurred soon after, had affected 18 districts out of 30 in the state. But this was not all. As per an IMD report, the number of cyclonic storms that hit Odisha between 1891 and 2000 was 98. It means that almost every year the state of Odisha faces a cyclone, flood or drought. It is one of the main causes of Odisha’s poverty and underdevelopment.


The memorandum also brought to the president’s notice the fact that during the post-cyclone period, when crores of people were living in utter darkness as the electrical installations and supply systems had totally collapsed, the central government was charging Rs 72.46 per litre for kerosene oil from the Odisha state government which provides this commodity to the needy people while at that juncture the central government should have given free kerosene for a month at least. The Odisha state government had had to deposit Rs 110 crore for 9,768 kilolitres of kerosene. This was an act of cruelty on part of the central government towards the people of the poorest state of India.




Due to the recent cyclone and the subsequent floods, the memorandum said, about a hundred people have died while 171 blocks, 20,000 villages, 44 towns were affected. About 1.5 crore people suffered due to this calamity. About 10 lakh houses are either fully or partially damaged, and crops covering 2.5 million acres of land were destroyed. A large number of schools, colleges and hospitals have also suffered damages. Fishermen have lost their fishing boats and nets. A large member of cattle and livestock has perished.


Besides the houses, crops, boats and fishing nets, about 1,947 km of state roads, 8,099 km of the national highways and 253 bridges were also damaged. As many as 3,040 rural water supply systems and 1,621 tube wells suffered damages, as did the urban pipe water system in several areas. The irrigation system was also damaged, along with 874 km of river embankments, 768 km of canal embankments and 700 km of drainage channels. Also, 1,269 minor irrigation projects, 4,848 lift irrigation projects and 641 deep tube wells were extensively damaged. The list of damages also includes 8,198 boats and 31,058 fishing nets.


As many 539 primary health centres, 226 colleges and 5,825 school buildings were damaged. Berhampur University was badly damaged.


In the power sector, 1,756 feeders, 38,977 substations, 36,133.9 km of conductor of LT lines, 4,074 km of EHT lines, 2,11,014 electric poles and 93 EHT towers were damaged.


This damage list is, however, not complete and the damages to the people’s personal properties cannot be correctly assessed. The backbone of the people’s economy has broken down.




Given this situation, the CPI(M) is of the opinion that if the central government does not come forward to save the people of Odisha, they would be pauperised beyond reparation. Normally, four million youth leave the state in search of job every year. Now after this calamity, if a proper rehabilitation programme is not undertaken, millions of people would leave their native places in search of job. Most of them will go on dadan. The process has already started.


The CPI(M) memorandum therefore demanded that in order to meet this situation, the central government must declare the cyclone Phailin and the flood of Odisha as a national calamity and a special minimum assistance of Rs 5,000 crore must be given to Odisha from the NDRF.


Considering the extent of damages and sufferings, the party put forward certain demands for the president’s consideration and urged him to issue necessary direction to the central government for appropriate steps. The demands are as below:


1) Calamity of Odisha must be declared a National Calamity and the union government must bear 90 percent of the responsibility of Odisha’s reconstruction and rehabilitation.


2) The NDRF/SDRF norm must be amended in accordance with the quantum of losses on every count.


3) In the present critical situation a special package of Rs 5,000 crore must be provided to Odisha.


4) All people who have lost their houses in the calamity must be provided with pucca houses to be built at the cost of Rs one lakh each.


5) For the crops damaged, Rs 15,000 must be given to the affected peasants for non-irrigated and Rs 25,000 for irrigated land per acre. Sharecroppers must get their due share.


6) Loans of the affected farmers, small traders and small manufacturers must be waived.


7) Wages under the MGNREGA work must be enhanced to Rs 300 per day and the number of days of work must be increased to 200. This kind of programme must be extended to urban areas also.


8) Artisans and small traders in urban and rural areas must be compensated for their losses and provided interest free loans for a revival of their trade.


9) All roads damaged due to the cyclone and flood must be repaired immediately as pucca roads.


10) A long term plan must be prepared to meet the natural calamities like cyclone, flood and drought. Recommendations of expert committees for long term measures must be taken into consideration.


11) Construction work on the national highway 520 (previously national highway 215) to make it a four-lane highway must be completed immediately.


12) The National Population Register (NPR) 2011 must be provided to the state for providing ration cards to all families.


Earlier, another CPI(M) delegation had met the governor of Odisha at the Raj Bhawan in Bhubaneswar, the state capital, and submitted to him a copy of the same memorandum, while complaining that the attitude of the central government on the cyclone and flood issue amounted to an act of cruelty towards the people of the poorest state of India.


The delegation was based on CPI(M) state secretariat member Dusmanta Das, state committee members Sarat Das and Sala Marandi, Bhubaneswar district committee secretary Suresh Panigrahi and district secretariat members Naba Kishore Mohanty and Pravat Panigrahi.