A protest poster put up in front of Barasat Government College

KOLKATA: Government officials faced resistance from locals while setting up quarantine centres in at least four areas surrounding Kolkata.
Locals protested in Baranagar, Barasat, New Barrackpore and Amdanga in North 24 Parganas throughout the day, even putting up blockades on busy roads like Jessore Road, NH-34 and Sodepur-Barasat Road till the administrative officials had to return without setting up quarantine centres.
In Baranagar, a local girls’ high school in Netaji Cololy under Ward 22 was supposed to be turned into a quarantine centre. But locals agitated in front of cops and civic members on Saturday morning. “There is no positive case in our ward so far. If such centre is set up here, people may contract the virus,” said Barnali Dutta, a local resident.
In Barasat, the locals blocked NH-34 for over two hours to protest against the setting up of a quarantine centre at Barasat Government College. Sunil Mukherjee, chairman of Barasat municipality, however, said, “We were trying our best to convince the locals, saying no confirmed Covid-19 patient would be kept at those centres. We all need to fight together against the pandemic. But some local leaders from opposition parties are creating ruckus in the area over the quarantine centre.”
In New Barrackpore, hundreds of locals launched an agitation in front of the APC College at Bisharpara where such a centre was supposed to be set up on Saturday. They also blocked Sodepur-Barasat Road till senior cops assured them of shifting the centre elsewhere. In Amdanga, too, officials faced resistance while setting up such a facility when locals blocked NH-34 for over an hour.



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KOLKATA: The number of Covid-19 cases in West Bengal climbed to 5,130 on Saturday after 317 more people tested positive for coronavirus, the state health department bulletin said. Seven fresh deaths due to the disease were also reported in the state, taking the toll to 237, it said.
Six of the seven deaths were recorded in Kolkata while one was in North 24 Parganas district.
Seventy-two patients have died due to co-morbidities where Covid-19 was “incidental”, the bulletin said.
The number of active cases in the state stands at 2,851.
The bulletin said 195 patients were discharged from various hospitals since Friday evening, taking the total number of people who have recovered from the disease to 1,970.



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A tailor’s hub in Basirhat’s Taragunia, one of the several villages destroyed in Cyclone Amphan

BASIRHAT: Livelihoods wrecked and houses destroyed, Basirhat subdivision in North 24 Parganas is a picture of misery two days after super cyclone Amphan rampaged its way through West Bengal.
At Taragunia, a humble embroidery workshop that used to earn bread for eight families in the village lies in tatters. Its owner, 32-year-old Iliyas Khan, is now left with huge loans, five mouths to feed and seven other families desperately looking up to him for resumption of their livelihood.
Like many of his friends, Iliyas too had started working in the brick kilns dotted along the Ichchamati river. But a dream to set up his embroidery workshop saw Iliyas quit, take loans and start his own unit. He was managing orders from Metiaburuz, procuring raw material and supplying the finished product. Things were good until Amphan ripped his dream to pieces.
“Each month I paid Rs 5,000 towards loan repayment. There were arrears since (Covid pandemic) lockdown was imposed but we thought it would pass. But cyclone has ruined everything,” said Ilyas.
“On Wednesday night, the roof blew off, thatched walls caved in, machines were smashed and the raw material was soiled,” Ilyas recalled as he tried to pack the few clothes he could save. To start afresh, Iliyas would have to take another loan but he has no clue how to pay it off. “There is no work in Metiaburuz now. People are not buying unless necessary. We won’t have orders any time soon,” he said.
In North 24 Parganas’ worst-hit Basirhat, thousands like Iliyas are now struggling to survive Amphan’s aftermath. Rarely can a house be seen that is not damaged. Uprooted trees and electric poles litter the subdivision. With brick kilns closed since the lockdown, many are left doing odd jobs in the fields.
“Brick kilns have a season until onset of monsoon, and we earn Rs 500 per week there. We have spent all our savings during lockdown and have nothing left to even repair our houses. We are worse than beggars now,” said 63-year-old Noor Ali Mollah as tears streaked his cheeks. His asbestos-thatched house was destroyed after a tree fell on it on Wednesday. “We went looking for plastic sheets this morning. But the municipal office does not have any left,” he said.
A few hundred meters from Mollah’s house, at Ballabhpur, Hasanulla Khan was trying to tie a plastic sheet on to the thatched house he had built recently. His family survived a close shave when the house crumpled in the face of the cyclone’s fury. “Ekhan asmaner niche thakte hobe. Eid tao eibhabei kete jabe (Now we will have to spend our days under the sky. Eid too will pass in this way),” Hasanulla said.
Basirhat subdivisional officer Vivek Bhasme put a figure on the number of those affected. “Nearly 1 lakh people in Basirhat subdivision have lost their homes and are now staying at relief camps in places such as Hingalgunj, Hasnabad, Deganga, Sandeshkhali and Haroa,” he said.
At least 30 embankments of the Ichhamati, Raymangal, Bidyadhari and Kalindi having been breached, over 700 villages are under water now.



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Behala Chowrasta

KOLKATA: Forty-eight hours after Cyclone Amphan ripped threw the city, pockets of Kolkata continued to suffer without electricity, water supply or mobile network. Anger and frustration that had been simmering since Thursday evening boiled over on Friday when people erupted into spontaneous protests in different parts of the city, nearly all of them in peripheral areas, where the power network is overhead and bore the brunt of the monster cyclone.
Their misery refusing to end, residents living along Kasba connector, Anwar Shah connector, Ajoynagar, Baghajatin, Naktala, Haridevpur, James Long Sarani, Roy Bahadur Road, Behala Chowrasta, Bamacharan Roy Road, Thakurpukur, Howrah blocked roads. “Is anyone bothered about our suffering? No CESC or civic official has visited our area to cut uprooted trees or repair snapped power lines. In absence of electricity, pumps can’t be operated, and so, there is no water,” said Subir Sen from James Long Sarani. Subhojit Pal, another local, claimed, “I even visited the KMC borough office but no civic official was there to hear about our woes.”
Ramen Mondal, a resident of Paris Para, located off Behala Chowrasta, said storm water had not receded from roads even 48 hours later. “I tried to call the KMC emergency number and CESC call centre, but to no avail,” he said.
In Tollygunge, including Netaji Nagar, Ranikuthi, Azadgarh and Garia, as well as Haridevpur, people demonstrated against inaction by the civic body and power utilities; power to areas beyond Tolly’s Nullah is supplied by state-owned WBSEDCL. Student Tirthankar Chakraborty, who lives in Azadgarh, said he could not refrigerate his mother’s medicines. People living off Bypass, including Ajaynagar, Shahidnagar and Kasba, also blocked roads in a desperate bid to draw the authorities’ attention to the crisis. Many residents were forced to cough up Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 to hire generators to draw water to their reservoirs.
Even in north, Jessore Road near airport was blocked for an hour, while incidents of unrest were reported from Baguiati, Birati, Panihati and Budge Budge. Protests in Belur forced local MLA Baishali Dalmiya to rush to the spot.
CESC officials conceded they were overwhelmed by the sheer scale of disruption. “We had set up control rooms and kept 5,000 men ready but we could not gauge the magnitude of the destruction. We are working continuously but even then, repair is taking time,” said an official. CESC, he said, received 112 complaints of wire snap and 43 dislodged poles on Thursday morning and the figures rose to 600 and 200 on Friday evening. “We are now focusing on temporary repair. A thorough repair will be taken up later,” the official said.
CESC sources claimed they were not getting access to snapped wires as KMC had not removed uprooted trees. A KMC parks official conceded it was becoming difficult for them owing to lack of adequate manpower. The department has 1,000 gardeners, but at least 60% of them are stuck in their villages for lockdown. KMC has deployed conservancy workers but even then, it might take till May 31 to finish work in entire Kolkata.
While localities around the city are expected to get power back by Sunday, WBSEDCL can’t offer any deadline for places North and South 24 Parganas, East and West Midnapore, Hooghly and Howrah, where network has been ruined. “We don’t know when the entire restoration will be over, but we are working,” said an official.



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