June 11, 2009

Trinamool boycotts all-party meet to discuss distribution of relief

Buddha admits problems with relief in far-flung areas. Another all-party meeting to be held on June 14

KOLKATA,7th June:
The Trinamool Congress, the principal Opposition party in the State, on Sunday boycotted an all-party meeting convened by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to discuss ways to ensure a non-partisan approach to distribution of relief to the lakhs of people affected by cyclone Aila.

“We can’t sit on things”

Asked by journalists to comment on the Trinamool’s boycott, Mr. Bhattacharjee said: “If they do not come, it is my misfortune. Had they come, it would have been better but if they do not we cannot sit [on things] but need to go ahead [with what is to be done],” he added while admitting that problems related to reaching relief to victims in far-flung areas continued to exist.

The Chief Minister reiterated the need to set aside narrow political interests and work towards providing relief to the victims “hand-in-hand.”

Meet successful

“The meeting was held very successfully; the Congress that is running the government at the Centre was present,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said. Another all-party meeting would be held on June 14, to which the Trinamool was also invited, to reassess the progress in relief work, he added.

“We are not going to oblige a government that has been callous in tackling the situation … and is only interested in financial assistance rather than providing the necessary relief to the victims,” senior Trinamool leader and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Partha Chatterjee told mediapersons.

“Delay tactics”

Those to be invited to the meeting were parties that have a representation in the Assembly. The importance of the presence in the talks of representatives of the Trinamool cannot be overstated. The party is in control of the local rural bodies in several of the affected areas — the last in the chain of agencies engaged in the relief distribution process. The party leadership claimed to be administering to the needs of the cyclone victims independent of the government that, it alleged, was engaging “in delay-tactics [in relief distribution] to get funds [from the Centre].”

“Under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee, we have already organised providing relief to the victims in our own capacity,” Mr. Chatterjee said.

Fresh inundation

Certain areas in the Sunderbans spanning parts of the two districts of North and South 24 Parganas faced fresh inundation in the wake of the spring tide that caused water to gush in through the damaged embankments that are yet to be restored. A large number of people have been evacuated to safer places since Saturday.

Damage assessment

Two groups of Central officials visited the two districts while one was in the landslip-scarred Darjeeling hills to assess the extent of damage caused by the calamity. They inquired about relief supplies and will be submitting a report to the Centre after a final meeting with the State government here on June 9.

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