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Post Cyclone Bengal True Test Of Indian Federalism


PM Modi has promised to stand by Bengal in her greatest recent crisis following the double disaster if Corona pandemic and the trail of death and destruction left behind by Cyclone Amphan.
Nearly 100 killed, thousands injured, huge damage to infrastructure. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee says her government would need Rs 1 lakh crore to conduct the relief, rehabilitation and rebuilding of infrastructure in 7 districts hit badly by cyclone following immediately on the loss of life and livelihood in Corona and the hasty lockdown that followed.
In this disaster  season ( pralay yug) , Bengal has all the problems , any one of which can bog down a state with much greater resources than this densely populated state . If one were to consider the continuous cycle of disasters since the 1942-43 Bengal famine(30 lakh deaths), Partition violence (10 lakh deaths), 1971 Naxalite movement and Bangladesh War ( nearly 70 lakh refugees) and the periodic political violence and autonomist agitations like Gorkhaland and Kamtapuri movrments and natural calamities like floods and cyclones ( Aila was the last) , many are surprised as how the state is still able to return the fifth highest GST collections among Indian states and stay in one piece. Now Bengal faces the Corona threat, lockdown issues, migrant labour problems and the cyclone problems.
Make no mistake — the Bengali farmer or fisherman is not half the size of his Punjabi counterpart and half as good an entrepreneur , but he is ten times a more resilient survivor in a crisis — flood or famine, cyclone or political mayhem. 
That fighting never-say-die spirit of Bengal’s poor under-class , as opposed to the middle class Baboo bhadralok, is epitomised in chief Mamata Banerjee. She is one of them. From walking ( not Scorpio riding) 20 kms on the last day of the polls to working the cyclone control room for 36 hours without sleep, Didi is a leader who leads from the front and does not vanishes for 11 days after a Maan Ki Baat as the country wrestles with migrant workers, ever spreading Corona pandemic and lockdown impact.
Unlike the PM who avoids a press conference and only gives interviews to manageable journalists  , Didi does her negotiations with agitating doctors in full view of live television.
She has problems , weaknesses, may be even she lacks longterm vision , but she is every inch a fighter in the tradition of Subhas Bose and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman .
What she now needs from the Centre is not empty promises but speedy transfer of funds and resources to handle the double crisis of Corona and Cyclone. If that does not happen because the BJP thinks it will help Didi regain her political space which they dont want in the rundown to Bengal polls barely a year away, it will br a bigger disaster than Corona or Cyclone.
During Corona, Bengal received more central inspecting teams determined to find faults and harass Didi”s administration with 60 point queries than actual funds and Corona equipments. RSS-BJP gifted the state with the Communal Virus to add to the Corona Virus by provoking a Muzzafarnagar type riot at Telinipara, that stretched the state police busy fighting Corona.
Even as Maharastra and Gujarat wilted under Corona with poor handling, Bengal got the danda from Centre, the constant needling of ministers and officials. 
We hope that is not repeated now after Cyclone Amphan
As a non politician but a concerned Bengali  , what I  expect of the Delhi masnad is help, compassion, support for my poor people from the migrant worker to the cyclone affected. Dont try dividing us on religion , because whenever this communal virus has hit us, it has destroyed us. Imagine an united Bengal in an united India . 
Top Bengali actor Prosenjit Chatterjee has said ” we have faced so much and we will face this again and stand on our own feet again.”
That we will .  The state where modern Indian nationalism and the Congress was born expects to be treated as an Indian state in the true spirit of federalism, putting political rivalries aside.
 Model and failed actress Payal Rohtagi deeply hurt my Bengali identity by calling Rammohan Roy, pioneer of Bengal Rennaisance, a British agent . She fails to realise that for a Bengali , Lord Ram is a respectable but a distsnt mythological figure, but Rammohan is part of my social modernity and ethnic identity  which is non negotiable. In the midst of Amphan, Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankar touched a raw nerve alleging West Bengal is exaggerating cyclone damage. 
I am a journalist with no agenda. I married on 23 January bec that is Subhas Bose’s date of birth. I am both a passionate Indian and a passionate Bengali. Passion is our trademark with whatever we do.
Two requests to Mr Modi who has promised all help – please take back this ever complaining governor and please ask Amit Shah not to call us termites ( dimak) again . And please send enough help, not just empty promises. This hour is the real test of Indian federalism. If it fails in Bengal, it will not work elsewhere in India.

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