BHUBANESWAR: As the State is limping back to normalcy after the extremely severe cyclone Fani battered the Odisha coast, absence of BJD leaders in the affected areas and their non-participation in the restoration and reconstruction process have come in for sharp criticism.
Except for Chief Minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik, none of the senior ministers including those in charge of urban development, energy, rural development and panchayati raj are visible on the field.
The cyclone devastated coastal villages and inflicted unprecedented damage on the power infrastructure. But, Minister of State for Energy Sushant Singh is nowhere to be seen. Even 12 days after the cyclone when the State Government is grappling with the situation in Puri, the minister has not reviewed the situation even once though the Election Commission of India (ECI) has exempted 11 affected districts from the purview of the poll model code of conduct.
Similar is the case with Urban Development and Housing Minister Niranjan Pujari and Rural Development Minister Bikram Keshari Arukha. None of the ministers have visited the affected areas even once.
The role of the Biju Yuva Vahini (BYV) has come under scanner following the cyclone. Launching the BYV on March 14, 2018, the Chief Minister had said the members of the organisation will help people during natural calamities. But, at the crisis time, the BYV members are missing. There are over 2.51 lakh members of the BYV including 60,000 in the five worst affected districts including the Capital City of Bhubaneswar.
Health Minister Pratap Jena and Forest and Environment Minister Bijoyshree Routray are exceptions as they reviewed the situation after more than a week when the issue came in for criticism from the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC). Meanwhile, the Chief Minister has directed the MLAs and senior party leaders of the cyclone hit districts to visit the affected areas and help people.
Leader of the Opposition Narasingh Mishra has strongly criticised the ministers for their inaction during such grave crisis. Stating that the ministers can review and give direction as the ECI has exempted affected areas from the purview of the model code of conduct, Mishra, however, said ministers never mattered in this Government.
Mishra demanded that Fani should be declared a national calamity and Army should be called in for reconstruction and restoration work. Criticising the Government for the post-cyclone management work, Mishra said it has not been able to assess the loss inflicted by the tropical storm.