By Ashutosh Mishra
Bhubaneswar: Reconstruction in the wake of havoc wreaked by cyclone Fani is by far the biggest challenge chief minister, Naveen Patnaik has faced since he took up the reins of the state in 2000.
The initial years of Patnaik’s first stint in power were devoted to rebuilding infrastructure damaged by the 1999 super-cyclone which had left the coast in tatters. Apart from killing around 10,000 people the gale had taken a heavy toll of infrastructure, especially power structures and small and medium industries. Lakhs had been rendered homeless and jobless.
The Congress government, which was in power in the state when the super-cyclone hit the coast, had incurred the wrath of people for failing to rise to the challenge of mounting an effective relief and rehabilitation operation. People were forced to starve and there were food riots in districts like Jagatsinghpur. The government also stumbled on the reconstruction front.
No wonder expectations were high from Naveen Patnaik government when it succeeded the Congress. Yet Patnaik could afford to make a few mistakes ( which he, of course, did not) because the comparison would always have been with the Congress which had set abysmally low standards.
But this time it is different. He has been in power for nearly 20 years and it has been an un-interrupted reign. People not only have high expectations from the government they are also watching its each step keenly. Rehabilitation and reconstruction in the wake of Fani is a test that this government must pass.
Unfortunately the government seems to be floundering, especially on the power restoration front. Having spent over a week in complete darkness people in several areas of the state capital are fed up. There are daily arguments and protests and the government has been forced to deploy police in almost every electric sub-station of Bhubaneswar.
Power problem has also added to the water woes of the city residents though efforts are being made to supply water to people through tankers. Residents of high rise apartments are suffering the most as big generator sets are needed to pump water to the overhead tanks. Always ready to make capital out of human misery the generator wallahs have raised hiring charges to extortionate levels.
If this is the situation in Bhubaneswar one can easily imagine what must be happening in the countryside and in smaller towns including Puri which bore the brunt of the cyclone which made the landfall there. Power and water supply in Puri and surrounding villages have been badly disrupted. Once a bustling tourist centre the town today wears a deserted look.
The famous sea beach in the town looks ugly to say the least. The sea front hotels are lying closed with pillows and mattresses drying in their balconies. Tourists are yet to return to the town which is just not prepared to welcome them.
The 12th century Puri Jagannath temple, the town’s most famous landmark, wears a forlorn look with very few pilgrims visiting it. Fani has hit both humans and divines hard.
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