It came like a Force of Nature; a Super Cyclone with an eye 30 kilometers wide and bearing winds that peaked at 230 kms per hour and constituted the 2nd strongest ever storm to emerge from the Bay of Bengal. The sustained energy carved its way through North Eastern Kolkata for nearly 8 hours and it felt like the city had been hit by the shockwaves of a nuclear explosion that mimicked by an order of magnitude a thousand times greater than the equivalent destructive force of water that rolls over Niagara Falls.
Amphan, which means “Sky” in the Thai language, on the night of the 20th of May, 2020; was just incredible. It created 13.2 billion US Dollars worth of damage to the States of West Bengal and Orissa alone; it absolutely devastated the Sundarbans and called into motion a heroically mammoth and magnificently co-ordinated evacuation of over 1 million people by the State Authorities of West Bengal/Orissa and over 2 million people by the sovereign nation state of Bangladesh. (Both efforts received commendation by the United Nations, although there was little to no assistance from any Foreign Agency nor was the Central Government in New Delhi particularly concerned about her people in the East of the Republic; before, during and after).
The Imperialist Media, rooted in the City of London and Wall Street which glorifies and drools over despair, mayhem and the suffering of the darker races, found it unnecessary to broadcast or even mention Amphan as, (in their eyes); it was unlikely to drawn much viewership and subsequent Ad Revenue, as very few of her elegantly Western aligned audience would be attracted to seeing an ethnic people successfully utilising their own resources (and planning) to prepare themselves and mitigate the destructive effects of such an event. It would also unfortunately force them to have to include un-edited scenes of Kolkata’s modern infrastructure, built when the city was under the guidance of the Communist Party of India; (starting from the late 1970s) and that, in itself, would entail exposure of their propagandist lies which denigrate this magnificent city as being a vast slum addled by IMF induced poverty begging for a handout; propaganda that is so enthusiastically laid out as entertainment when it comes to depicting the Indian Republic; as in Slumdog Millionaire, although that was more in line with using the West of the Republic as the focus of reference.
Outside of the East of the Republic, you are likely to remain unaware of Amphan, for which neither the Indian Republic nor the affected relevant States within the Union; beg, (nor need), any outside help or assistance of any sort in the guise of USAID or UN sponsored charity; or any such organisation that thrive on kickbacks and small cuts in order to provide that assistance; (those two being prime exponents of Vulture Capitalism feasting on any opportunity to devour any society).
With that said and out of the way, let me show you some actual pictures of the 20th, 21st of May which I took in the neighbourhoods of BidhanNagar, which is a massive planned satellite city to the East of Kolkata and which, until the Peoples’ Republic of China started their incredible super-city building in the late 1990s, was the largest infrastructure city development in all of South and South East Asia, where my parents eventually built their home in 1995 and where I am currently living with my 85 year old mother.
Some of these awe-inspiring mega-cities of the Peoples’ Republic of China cater to populations larger than the smaller nations within Europe. What those cities have in common, (apart from BidhanNagar being the first), is that they were conceived, meticulously planned, implemented and built under the guiding principles of their respective Communist Governments.
On the night of the 20th of May, Kolkata was under the most severe LockDown on Planet Earth, as was the rest of the Indian Republic. These pictures are of the streets just 2 days prior. You will notice they are fairly deserted but do also note the modern state of the roads. Guess who lives in the red house? (Nearly all of the Indian Republic have such roads and infrastructure).
The picture below are of Workers’ Apartments for Central Government Employees and their families for when they are posted to Kolkata and the Eastern Region during the course of their service.
Utterly deserted except for the neighbourhood dogs; who by law; are fed by Neighbourhood Committees and have their Medical needs provided for by State Veterinary Clinics, who also administer the necessary injections as per State Requirements. In the Indian Republic abusing these animals is a serious offence that will lead to heavy fines and a long few days negotiating through the Municipal Courts.
All quiet before the storm, (as they say), and then came Amphan.
My father planted this tree as a sapling in 1995 when he retired and it grew into a 45 foot high giant. Sadly, it could not withstand the night of Amphan and this is how it ended its life. Perhaps, the message here is, just as it is for all ourselves; we either die resisting or we die having succumbed to the relentless pressure that is constantly placed upon us; but in the end, die; we will all have to.
This gives an idea of the sheer energy of what went through Kolkata by fact that these sturdy steel street lamp-posts are bent as flat as a pancake.
On the morning of the next day, these are those very same streets and the adjoining neighbourhoods. A rough estimation has it that 5000 mature trees were uprooted in Kolkata although that figure is conservative at best.
Note that the trees have been totally uprooted rather than broken, indicating the force that they were subjected to yet the adjacent wall stands firm.
The clean-up begins immediately on the morning of the next day, the 21st. In the background are further Workers’ Apartments which in the Indian Republic are called State Workers’ Quarters. Notice how the road and building infrastructure remain unscathed.
The heavy equipment you see being employed are all Made in the Republic by Indian Workers, contrary to any misunderstanding you may have upon tuning into Modi’s pronouncements that nearly everything is imported. In fact, one of the things remarkable about the Republic is that everything you see and touch is made within the Nation, by Her people and from Her own resources.
Here you see the Corporation Officers making a note of which Wards are being cleared.
This perhaps gives a better idea of how well built the Communist 1980s built infrastructure is. It was just the trees that could not withstand the full brunt of the assault.
This is the clear up taking place at the front of my house. You would expect my parent’s home to have been devastated but the damage is absolutely nil, thanks to the strict Building and Planning Codes that were introduced by the Communists in the 1970s and 80s and which have been stringently applied and adhered to since. If left to the Free Market, these buildings would have been flattened. If you look carefully, you would see Dalim and his wife Salma standing next to him. My father employed Dalim as a gardener nearly 25 years ago or thereabout. He has since gotten married and has had a daughter who has passed her Class 12 Exams and is herself married and employed as an Office Admin in a State Corporation.
Dalim and Salma are part of the family household and live with us. They are amongst the countless “migrant” workers who leave their villages as illiterate youth and gravitate towards the cities in hopes of making ends meet. My mother is a retired school teacher and she ensured that his daughter had the full opportunity to successfully complete her Secondary Education. Guess what. Dalim is a Muslim but a Citizen of the Indian Republic, even moreso than I am.
The sub-station absolutely intact.
Not sure about the rest though.
The other thing I hope you would notice in these pictures is that there is no flooding of the streets. I took these pictures on the immediate morning of the next day. (Amphan arrived at 5pm and had crossed by 1am). This is testament to the powerful modern drainage capacity laid down by the city.
The entire clearup operation was undertaken by the City Corporation and associated Local Municipalities, along with Bengal Police, Fire, Ambulance and Emergency Services of the State. There was a minimal amount of deployment of equipment and assistance of the Indian Army, which Modi would not allow until the very end when nearly all of the heavy lifting had been completed.
The death toll in West Bengal remains sadly at 85. It is not so much the infrastructure but the agriculture that has been devastated in the South of the State, specifically in the Sundarbans which faced 6 foot surges and had their crops totally submerged under a deluge of sea-water. Isn’t it sad that the people who revere Nature the most and cause it no harm are the ones who face Her full wrath and fury.
Not much left of that tree, totally uprooted and laid to waste. A lesson in it for me I suppose and for all of us in a way.
So where was Modi amongst all this. For a High Flyer, (as he is wont to be), where else would he be but flying high above the Republic. This picture is of the Helicopter Tour that he engaged in 3 days after the cyclone to survey the damage to Orissa and West Bengal.
He graciously sanctioned the release of the equivalent of 182 million US Dollars as Relief Aid for West Bengal and half that sum for Orissa, (sums which are almost worthless within the scope of the devastation). Modi is a man prone to grand statements that focus the energy upon himself. The figure he quoted is a number that sounds massive in Indian Rupees and has a nice round feel to it, 1000 crore Rupees.
He made no mention of how the affected poor would be assisted. Having sensed that West Bengal may be in a weakened position, he then took the opportunity to apply the pressure upon his return to New Delhi by having 45,000 Bengali workers stranded in the epic-centre of this Pandemic Corona Crisis, (Maharashtra), being put on trains and transported to Bengal hoping that the State would be unable to provide Medical and Quarantine Facilities in the middle of having to cope with this.
His latest efforts on the 11th of June was to hold a Virtual Conference with the Indian Chamber of Commerce in Kolkata where he talked about his plans to reduce the Corporate Tax Structure so as to cover and compensate for the Insurance Costs and losses to these same Private Corporations of Amphan’s journey through the city. Modi has his full focus on the 2021 State Assembly Elections and how that 1000 crore can be efficiently utilised by the Bengal BJP to ensure victory.
It is what it is.
The city remains standing and so do the people of Bengal. The reason behind as to why there was no rioting, no despair and opportunistic looting, no lack of food and emergency medical provision, no outbreak of disease and citywide flooding with overflowing sewers and garbage strewn streets, incapacitated electricity provision and panicked chaos; nor was there any blaming, was that the people calmly faced and overcame this catastrophic event. The very fact that the city withstood this blast is solely of the systems laid down in place by the Communists, which Modi hopes to reap and encompass in his favour by engulfing Bengal under the BJP.
We shall see.
Supratim Barman, MSc – Queen Mary – University of London. Kolkata, The Republic of India. I live between the two extreme edges of what was the British Empire, in the vast and important cities of Kolkata and London; with the midpoint being where I was born and where I grew up, Bahrain: observing and experiencing events in a time of great change.