The coastal belt of Odisha, which was devastated by the cyclone Fani, is in further distress since the electricity and water connections in the region are yet to be re-established. Though the state had garnered praise for handling the situation effectively, now the people from the state are not happy with the rehabilitation work, and are staging protests in various places.
More than 1.56 lakh electricity poles have been uprooted in the capital city alone. Besides, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has written to the state government about the complaints regarding relief kits not reaching the people in Puri and Khurda.
Angry protesters blocked roads at many places, including state capital Bhubaneswar on Sunday, demanding that the authorities address their problems quickly. At several places, demonstrators alleged that the restoration work was hampered by lack of management and coordination among various government agencies, thereby compounding the miseries of the cyclone-affected people.
The state government said it is trying to speed up efforts to restore electricity, water supply and telecom facilities even as a large number of areas remained in the dark on the 10th day since May 3.
Read More: Cyclone Fani: Odisha Seeks Centre’s Help to Restore Power, Telecom Services; Help Pours in From All Quarters
The state government claimed that it has restored electricity and drinking water supply in Bhubaneswar and urban areas of Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Cuttack districts. However, protesters kept blocking the roads across the state.
"We are forced to come out on the road, as the government has failed in providing basic necessities such as water and power despite having promised to restore power supply by Sunday, May 12," said a woman who joined a road blockade at Nuagaon.
"There is a limit to our patience. We are made to spend sleepless nights. We have to purchase drinking water at exorbitant prices," said another protester.
In the pilgrim town of Puri, worst hit by the cyclone, locals were moving out temporarily. In almost all electricity offices in coastal districts, police personnel have been deployed to tackle people attempting to attack officials, a state government official said.
Information and Public Relations Secretary Sanjay Singh maintained that electricity will be restored in all areas of Bhubaneswar by Sunday midnight. He also claimed that drinking water has been made available in all parts of the state capital.
Read More: Super Cyclone ‘Fani’ Reaches Odisha with Ferocious Winds of Speed 180 Kms Per Hour
While the number of deaths due to Fani rose to 64 with 21 new deaths confirmed on Sunday, nine days after the 'extremely severe' cyclonic storm. The number of deaths, which stood at 43 till Saturday, rose after 18 more casualties were reported from the worst-hit Puri, and four more from Khurda district.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has directed the officials to start assessment of houses damaged in cyclone Fani which made landfall in Puri with a wind speed of up to 240 km/ph on May 3, and has left at least 241 people injured.
According to sources in the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA), 15,26,877 houses have been damaged in the state in different calamities in the last 12 years. While at least 5.08 lakh houses have been damaged in this calamity and 34.56 lakh livestock casualties have also been reported from the 14 affected districts, a report of the special relief commissioner's office said.
The state government has demanded Rs.7,000 crore from the Centre for construction of disaster resilient houses in cyclone-prone areas of Odisha.
"I have lost my thatched house in the cyclone. No one from the government has come to see my damaged house. I am waiting for the assessment since May 4. I do not know when they will assess the damage and give me assistance to construct my house," said Shantilata Mishra, a widow at Biraramchandrapur village in Puri district. Mishra is among the many poor people who have lost their houses and are not sure when they will get assistance from the state government.
"How long we should wait for the assessment? If we start construction, they may not give us assistance," said Mishra, as she wondered where she would stay in the meantime.
The cyclone-affected people are gradually losing hope as the house assessment order was given on the tenth day since the calamity-hit their villages, with the exercise beginning 12 days after the disaster.
However, the Naveen Patnaik regime had asserted "efficient" evacuation before the calamity. Promising full assistance for house construction, Patnaik said, "I assure that all out efforts will be put so that not a single eligible person will be left out."
Patnaik further said that all families whose houses are completely or substantially damaged due to extremely severe cyclone will be sanctioned pucca houses.
"In all the severely affected blocks, senior officers will be appointed to supervise the assessment process," he said, adding that work order distribution to the beneficiaries will begin from June 1.
A large number of affected people, as well as opposition parties, have also accused the state government of being inadequately prepared to deal with the post-cyclone situation.
The delay in the start of house assessment may cause a lot of hardship for the people, said Suresh Panigrahi, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader. Speaking in a similar vein, Congress leader Narasingha Mishra accused the state government of having failed to handle the post-cyclone situation.
Read More: Massive Evacuation in Odisha as Cyclone 'Fani' Rolls Menacingly