KOLKATA: As many as 100 police personnel, out of the 174 cops contracting the novel coronavirus in Bengal, have been cured. Among those who tested positive, 106 personnel are from Kolkata Police, of whom 35 are already back at work. The rest are set to resume duty soon. So far, 56 KP personnel have been discharged from hospitals, 16 of them over the past two days.
All these personnel had contracted the virus while being out on roads, enforcing the rules of lockdown. Most of them belonged to police stations, such as Jorabagan, Jorasanko, Bowbazar, Pragati Maidan and Anandapur and traffic guards like South and Jorabagan that have multiple containment zones within their jurisdictions. The combat force was on duty at important government buildings and the Disaster Management Group worked round-the-clock to bring help the city back on its feet after being ravaged by Amphan.

On being released from hospital after around two weeks, the cops were asked to undergo two weeks of home quarantine and some extra rest, if possible. But yet when Cyclone Amphan struck, most of them not only returned to duty but some also led the rebuilding process in their areas.
Bowbazar OC Siddhartha Chakraborty was diagnosed with Covid-19 in the beginning of May. He pent 12 days in a hospital off EM Bypass and when he was fianlly discharged amid collective relief, even chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted about his recovery. But given the scale of destruction left behind by Cyclone Amphan, Chatterjee could apparently not stay away from the call of duty. “When we were out on roads enforcing the lockdown, we were the first using face shields and PPEs, except health workers. We followed social distancing. Yet, I was diagnosed with Covid. I decided to treat it like any other disease. Every senior supported me and I was never left alone. Even commissioner sir (Anuj Sharma) asked after me. When I was released, I got a rousing welcome, showing everyone was ready to see me back at work. When Amphan struck, I knew I had to do whatever little I could in return for the faith they had in me,” he told TOI. Chakraborty is following the standard measures: wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and disinfecting police stations multiple times.
Sergeant Wasim Nair from Jorabagan traffic guard said he joined work the day Amphan hit. The traffic guard was still in a containment zone when he rejoined. His seniors had initially offered him a “safer” duty but he refused. “I am thankful to my superior officers who stood by me , especially my OC who ensured everything was fine at my home when I was in hospital. My family, who supported me, suggested I be back in duty,” Nair told TOI. “ I have a message for my colleagues: I was on duty when I contracted the virus, but it should be seen as a challenge and not a scare.”
Several others—sub-inspector Rajkumar Das of Jorasanko police, police driver Bilas Chandra Dutta of Hare Street PS and Iqlab Ahmed, sergeant at Bowbazar PS—have also reported back to work. They had either been assigned duty or kept on extra quarantine, ready to be assigned duty, said senior IPS officers. “We have recorded no death so far. Our recovery rate has been impressive. We have tried to stay in contact with everyone infected and help the families. We have taken all steps to restrict the spread of the virus,” said JCP (headquarters) Subhankar Sinha.
Senior officers have announced a slew of measures to tackle rising cases. “We have contained the sudden surge at Police Training School by taking certain steps, including use of hydroxychloroquine and homoeopathy medicines. It’s not about a few protests but how we redress the grievances. We are one big family and half the battle is won when we are not scared,” said an additional CP.



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A community kitchen being run by HEAL

KOLKATA: City-based NGOs have come forward to stand by the Sunderbans and its villagers in the difficult times following the lockdown and Cyclone Amphan.
Nature Mates-Nature Club has taken up relief work at Patharpratima and already reached out to more than 400 families with material like puffed rice, jaggery, sugar crisps, gram flour and biscuits, along with basic medicines and masks. “ People had also sent us dry food, baby food, clothes, essential accessories so that we can send it to the Sunderbans,” said a member of Nature Mates-Nature Club.
Society for Heritage and Ecological Researches (SHER) reached out to the foot soldiers of the Sunderbans — the forest staff — with face shields as they have been helping the villagers with relief material ever since Amphan had struck the region on May 20. The NGO distributed 300 face protection shields among the staff of Basirhat, Bidya and Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary ranges in the presence of senior officers of the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve (STR). The NGO has also been supporting the tiger reserve authorities in relief distribution at ground zero with several SOS supplies from Day Two after the cyclone broke in.
Human and Environment Alliance League (HEAL), in collaboration with forest department, has started community kitchens in Sunderbans villages. The kitchens were set up in Kultoli and Bhubaneswari, where over 700 people were fed every day between May 25 and 29. The NGO will also reach out to over 600 families in Kultoli and Patharpratima blocks and take up plantation activities in the villages in the days to come.
“After Amphan, we took up reach-out programme by providing basic stuff like food, drinking water and sanitary napkins to Sunderbans villagers. Later, we started reaching out to more people through various other relief activities,” said a member of HEAL.
Stripes and Green Earth (SAGE), with the help of forest department, reached out to over 800 villagers in Jharkhali, Deulbari and Jatirampur with relief material after Amphan. They also conducted medical camps. “We carried out relief material distribution activities on May 22 at Jharkhali, on May 24 at Deulbari and on May 29 at Jatirampur and Rangabelia,” said an NGO member.



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The rugby team players cleared the mess and replanted some of the partially fallen trees in Maidan

KOLKATA: Paul Walsh has been going to Maidan every Saturday morning for 15 years to oversee the training of his Jungle Crows rugby team, comprising hundreds of boys and girls. This Saturday though was different: no children chasing after the rugby ball, no bruises or scratches to tend to, no yelps of delight on scoring a try. Walsh was there with a group of players to clean up the mess left behind by Cylone Amphan and replant some of the trees that had been partially uprooted.
Walsh and his team had surveyed the patch of Maidan they play on opposite Ispat Bhavan on Chowringhee a day after the cyclone and were devastated by what they saw. The place was littered with shattered trees. Some of the old priceless trees, along with many young trees that Jungle Crows had planted around the patch of green they had adopted as a rugby field, had been uprooted.
Around eight years ago, TOI had helped Walsh carve a rugby ground out of a section of the Maidan that was in utter disuse. The Army, which owns the Maidan, had also extended its support that saw a garbage dump, that was being used as an open toilet, turn into a lush green ground where children now play the game.
“While some large and really old trees may be difficult to save, the partly damaged younger trees could be salvaged. Accordingly, the team went about cutting off the sections of the crown that were damaged and then pulled the trees into place,” Walsh said.
WWF India state director Saswati Sen said it would take time to get the beautiful Maidan back to some normality but it was getting a helping hand. “This is a small yet crucial step towards nursing the damaged trees. Other clubs are also chipping in to restore the Maidan,” she said. Naturalist Arjan Basu Roy, who had been involved in helping Jungle Crows reclaim the rugby field, said it was heartening to see Walsh and his team be the first to come to the aid of the Maidan and attempt to heal its wound.
Walsh, a former British diplomat (he had given up a promising career and stayed on in Kolkata to teach rugby to kids), said, “We’ve been shaken, a bit bruised and for sure shocked by events. But like every good rugby player, we’ve shaken off the hit and got back into the game.”



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KOLKATA: KMC plans to identify and barricade spots, from where large trees were uprooted by Cyclone Amphan, marking “territories” so that new saplings can be planted at those very places. The step will be taken to save the now-empty spots from being usurped by hawkers, clubs or even state and civic agencies to carry out projects, like road widening or beautification of pavements.

The civic body may also form a citizens’ forum that will not only assist the KMC in its drive to replant trees to compensate for the huge loss of greenery but also to look after the saplings later.
After holding a meeting with state forest minister Rajib Banerjee and senior environment department officials on Saturday, urban development minister Firhad Hakim said more than 50,000 saplings would be planted in Kolkata, particularly in places that suffered a colossal loss of greenery. Chosen by experts, these saplings will be of deep-rooted trees that can withstand storm. But Hakim had a word of warning for some traders and real estate developers: “A section of traders doesn’t hesitate to chop off a full-grown tree that stands tall in front of their shops or establishments or obstruct views. This must end or else we will act tough.”
According to forest minister Rajib Banerjee, an estimated 16 lakh trees fell and greenery on about 1,600 sq km was damaged across eight districts, including Kolkata, by the cyclone. “A huge amount of oxygen-generating source have been destroyed and this needs to be replenished,” he said.
Banerjee told TOI on Saturday that his department had decided to take up a drive to transplant around 17,000 trees, which were uprooted in eight south Bengal districts, to Kolkata, Howrah, Bidhannagar and New Town. “About 4,500 trees, which are 20-ft-high and more than 10 years old, and about 12,500 trees, which are over 16-ft-high and are over three years old, have been found to be retrievable. Those will be transplanted,” Banerjee said. After replanting, special care will be required for several months to see that they gain stability to live on. He said the ‘Kolkata Regreening’ programme would be launched on World Environment Day on June 5.
“About 1.5 crore saplings are supposed to be planted under Sabuj Shri scheme across Bengal. Another 2 crore trees were added. Post-Amphan, a target has been set to plant another 3 crore trees, taking the total target to 6.5 crore in the next one year,” the forest minister said.



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