Kolkata, May 30 (IANS) The central government will send relief material for West Bengal's cyclone victims, as also a team to assess the extent of devastation, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said Saturday.
Speaking to a Bengali television news channel in New Delhi, Banerjee said the decision was taken at a meeting of the union cabinet Saturday.
Banerjee said that during the cabinet meeting, she had pointed to the sufferings of the cyclone victims and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had given instructions to send relief material to West Bengal.
The prime minister also asked her to discuss the matter with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Banerjee said.
'The three of us then sat together and decided that relief material will be sent immediately. But I have suggested that the relief be given directly to the district magistrates. If it is given to the state government, it will digest it and the victims won't get anything,' she added.
'The relief can then be distributed through the panchayats (village councils) as they work at the grassroots level,' she said.
The central government will also send a team of officials to assess the devastation and decide on a long-term financial package for the rehabilitation of the victims.
Attacking the state government for its 'ineffectivenes' in providing relief to the thousands of victims, Banerjee said: 'The situation is very bad. The victims have no drinking water. Animal carcasses and human bodies are floating. People have no food. They are dying.'
Meanwhile, the Trinamool Congress ministers at the centre Saturday visited the cyclone-affected districts.
Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy, Minister of State for Urban Development Sougata Roy and Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting C.M. Jatua visited the the worst-hit South 24 Parganas district.
Minister of State for Tourism Sultan Ahmed toured the devastated areas in Hooghly and Howrah districts, while Minister of State for Rural Development Sisir Adhikari visited East Midnapore district.
Roy alleged that the state government had adopted a partisan attitude in relief distribution. 'In 32 years, they have not even been able to put up embankments,' he alleged.
'We had sent some relief a couple of days back. The government has not allowed these materials to be distributed and it has failed to provide adequate relief. Such is the situation that people are fleeing these places and going to Kolkata. Where are the state government ministers?' he asked.
The official death count has been put at 117 in the cyclone, which tore through extensive parts of the state Monday levelling houses, uprooting trees, snapping power cables and leaving a trail of destruction in 13 of the state's 19 districts.
Nearly 600,000 houses have been fully or partially damaged in the calamity, officials said.
The South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas districts have been theworst-hit and hundreds of villages continued to be marooned with saltwater intrusion destroying the paddy crops.