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#AllForBengal: Experts, Celebrities Come Together To Rebuild Cyclone Amphan Hit West Bengal

#AllForBengal: Experts, Celebrities Come Together To Rebuild Cyclone Amphan Hit West Bengal

On May 20, Cyclone Amphan tore through West Bengal affecting almost six crore people. Many parts of the state, including the city of joy, Kolkata have been devastated due to Cyclone Amphan, which barrelled into the coast with gusting winds of up to 185 km per hour. In state capital Kolkata, strong winds upturned cars and felled trees and electricity poles. Parts of the city were plunged into darkness. The powerful Cyclone Amphan destroyed thousands of homes, crops in thousands of acres, livelihoods lost. The poorest have been hit the hardest.

All of this has come at a time when the country is already battling a Coronavirus pandemic. In order to help West Bengal resurrect, a two hour special telethon #AllForBengal was organised to raise funds. The money will be used in providing food, shelter, hygiene and sanitation material, home based learning to children and livelihood restoration of marginal farmers and returnee migrant workers.

Experts and celebrities joined the campaign to help the poorest who have suffered the most in West Bengal and made an appeal to the citizens of the country to come forward and extend a helping hand.

Joining the telethon with NDTV's Dr Prannoy Roy, Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee talked about the scope and scale of devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan. Elaborating on the impact  of the cyclone, Ms Banerjee said,

The super cyclone Amphan in West Bengal hit on May 20 with speeds exceeding from 150mph to 160mph and an expanse of more than 350km. It was the third cyclone to hit West Bengal in the last nine months. First one was Bulbul, then Fani and then Amphan. But this time it was so big that its hits like anything. It was so big that it continued for about 24 hours and somewhere the devastation continued for about 8-10 hours. It destroyed everything. From 3pm till midnight, even in Kolkata also it stayed so many hours. Now, what happened in West Bengal because of this, more than 60 per cent of the population, more than 6 crore people were directly affected, spread over 16 districts out of 23 districts of West Bengal. And of course, we have taken over administration because we have taken precaution so that the 8.5 lakh people were evacuated. Otherwise, I don't know the disaster and loss of life, may be lakhs of. And after that we set up 5,000 relief sectors also, there also we care for the people. But the destruction it created was unprecedented.

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Further talking about the damages caused by the Cyclone Amphan informed that 98 lives have even lost, more than 50 lakh houses have been totally damaged, maybe 17 lakh hectares of agricultural land has been totally destroyed.

More than 50 lakh farmers have lost their livelihoods, 58,000 hectares of water bodies got destroyed killing fishes. Out of 4,200 sq km of Sundarbans which is a world heritage site, about 1,600 sq km and more than 21 lakh cattle and animals died. Horticulture was 2.5 lakh, it has got damaged. Thousand acres of forests damaged, schools, college, substation, power stations, electric poles, ICDS centers and health centers, everything has been destroyed. Especially 9 districts devastation so much and 16 districts of course the damage; the river, the embankment especially the water scheme, the heath infrastructure scheme, the irrigation, canals. Even the estimated amount of damage is more than 1 lakh crores. It's a severe disaster.

Sangita Jindal, Chairperson, JSW Foundation joined the telethon and added,

Humanity is going through a very trying time. Nature tested Bengal severely through that super cyclone. The stories of the destruction of communities, families, schools are agonizing. I was born and brought up in Kolkata and it will always be a part of my heart. We are doing our best but we definitely need more. 

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Sourav Ganguly, Former India Cricket Captain who has a house in West Bengal and was seen fixing a mango tree which got uprooted during Cyclone Amphan recalled the disaster and said,

I have seen the Amphan standing in my verandah and it was devastating. I have seen it from so close. It was unreal. But we were lucky because we live in cities with big blocks of buildings but those who are in the outskirts, the speed of the wind was unreal. The villages are still suffering. It was completely cleared up. We talk about governments but such big devastation can be supported and recovered with the help of people.

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Mr Ganguly noted that West Bengal especially areas like Sundarbans will take a long time to recover. He said that there is a need for a permanent solution in terms of infrastructure because cyclone keeps coming every year in areas like Sundarbans.

There is a need to make people empowered in order to face the consequences of cyclones and storms, said Mr Ganguly.

Juhi Chawla Mehta, Actress and Producer, Co-Owner Kolkata Knight Riders came forward for Bengal and recalled her connection with West Bengal - from starting her career from Bengali movies to having an IPL team in Kolkata.

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Shantanu Moitra, Composer, Musician and Pianist joined #AllForBengal telethon and spoke about the impact of Cyclone Amphan, based on what he has learned from his friends living in the state. He said,

It just occurred to me that if this was happening in a place like Kolkata, what was happening in the interiors of Bengal? In village. Next day, my fears were true. We got to know that villages were wiped out, Sunderbans, 24 Parganas. This is a very difficult time for Bengal, with Corona and then Amphan. But I believe that a lot of relief work needs to be done - is happening of course - but needs to be done for Bengal to come back to where it was.

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Mr Moitra appealed to the people to do whatever little they can and help the people of West Bengal.

Filmmaker, Screenwriter and Actress Aparna Sen also joined #AllForBengal telethon and recited an English translation of a Bengali poem by Rabindranath Tagore. The poem quintessentially talks about nature turning against humans and the recent Cyclone Amphan is a perfect example of the same.

No amount is too small. No amount is too big, said Ms Sen as she hoped for generous donations to resurrect Bengal from the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan.

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Extending her support to the people of West Bengal, Playback Singer Kavita Krishnamurthy joined #AllForBengal and talked about her connection with the state and the special place it holds in her heart. Ms Krishnamurthy is confident that the people of Bengal will come out of the trouble and sang a melodious Bengali song Oi Mahasindhur.

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Neelam Makhijani, CEO & Country Director, ChildFund India which is the implementation partner for the #AllForBengal initiative appealed to people to come forward for fellow countrymen and said,

There are 35 lakhs people in Sundarbans who have been completely devastated. We must all come forward and become part of the solution. Absolutely nothing is left for the people there.

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Ms Makhijani also talked about the lack of safety of children, child trafficking and how the cyclone has impacted the safety mechanism. Elaborating on child trafficking, Ms Makhijani said,

West Bengal has a very large number of girls and boys. Here the trafficking of boys is equal to the trafficking of girls. One in four young girls is trafficked. Four in every 10 girls are married off without reaching the legal age. The root cause of trafficking is always poverty.   

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee saluted all the frontline warriors - disaster management staff, locals, administration, police - who fought the Cyclone Amphan head-on and appealed the fellow countrymen to help the state in huge reconstruction. The CM very categorically noted that the state can recover alone and asked for help.

Chandrashekhar Pandey, Program Director, ChildFund India, talked about the issues that need to be addressed in the light of Cyclone Amphan. According to Mr Pandey, the three priorities are - food and shelter; health and hygiene; livelihood.

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Restoring livelihood can help in restoring the food need and nutrition and education needs of children. Restoring of houses is also the need of the hour, said Mr Pandey.

With a heavy heart, Sunil Chhetri, Indian Football Captain, urged the people of West Bengal to stay strong and assured full support.

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What was more saddening was the devastation that the cyclone has left on the farmers. It is so sad to see them say that they have lost all their homes. We are sitting at homes, safe with food to eat but we all need to help those who have lost everything. Any help will go a long way. I request you all to come forward and help. You can only imagine what they must be going through, said Mr Chhetri.

Former Actress Sharmila Tagore who hails from Bengal recalled her childhood days spent back in Calcutta and how that has shaped her at #AllForBengal telethon. Talking about the devastation and despair caused by Cyclone Amphan, Ms Tagore noted,

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Thousands of people have become homeless, losing everything. Everywhere you look there is despair and desolation. But you and I know Bengal is resilient, it'll rebuild. But to do this, West Bengal needs help. Today I wish for your empathy.

At #AllForBengal telethon, Shubha Mudgal, Hindustani Classical Singer recalled her first visit to the city of joy Kolkata. Ms Mudgal hoped that the nation will join hands to help the state of West Bengal rebuild itself and stand on its feet.

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Dr Jai Ranjan Ram, Psychiatrist, Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, Kolkata and Joint Director, Mental Health Foundation stressed on taking care of people's emotional needs and said,

There is a need to bring the community together by orgnaising community gathering because it often provides solace. A lot of it can be provided by ordinary citizens by active listening and empathy during the process of recovery. The community should stand with each other. It will go a long way.

Lyricist, Poet, Screenwriter and Director Gulzar joined the #AllForBengal telethon and recited a heartfelt poem in which he compared the migrant exodus to the partition of 1947.

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Lyricist, Singer and Writer Swanand Kirkire too sang a soulful Bengali song Akash Bhora Surjo Tara By Rabindranath Tagore in order to motivate the people of West Bengal. While appealing to the people to stand with West Bengal and help the state recover, Mr Kirkire reflected hope and said,

There will be music and laughter once again. Bengal will teach us about beauty and grace once again.

While lending her support to the people of West Bengal, Actor, Producer, United Nations Environment Goodwill Ambassador and United Nations Secretary General's SDGs Advocate Dia Mirza called for collective solidarity with the people of West Bengal.

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While we continue to do the best we can, to help with relief work for COVID-19, I think it should be equally compelling on our conscience to help rebuild the lives of those who have been affected by cyclone Amphan, said Dia Mirza.

Film director and Editor Rajkumar Hirani and Director and Producer Shoojit Sircar talked about the grave damages caused by Cyclone Amphan. The duo appealed to the citizens to come together and support West Bengal in this fight.

Addressing the Cyclone Amphan, Singer Shaan said that while we can't change what has been done, we can definitely trance the pain through a song and sang a popular Bollywood song 'Chaar Kadam' (four steps). Through the song, Shaan urged people to take four steps towards normalcy.

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As Bengal bleeds today I feel the pain. I'm not in Bengal but Bengal is in my blood and, it's very difficult times but I hope that we can soon come back to normalcy, said Shaan.

Nobel Laureate in Economics Amartya Sen addressed the different kinds of sufferings West Bengal is facing after Cyclone Amphan. Explaining the different sufferings, Mr Sen said,

There are two levels of suffering. There is an immediate problem of survival, shelter, eating, food and water. There's also, once the cyclone is gone, they would have destroyed the fields, animals for those who live by animal earning and untold damages in the cultivating fields. So, there is a capital problem and there's an immediate survival problem.

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Mr Sen suggested paying attention to both the sufferings and a co-operation between state and the central government.

At #AllForBengal telethon, Cricket Commentator and Journalist Harsha Bhogle recalled the lovely days he had spent at his beloved Eden Gardens. Lending his support to West Bengal, Mr Boghle hoped Eden garden and the state recovers soon and urged people to come forward and help.

Similarly, actress Vidya Balan also shared her ‘unique and lovely' relationship with Kolkata and West Bengal and how the state feels like her home itself. At the same time, Ms Balan showed a positive approach and said that the state will heal quickly.

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I will do as much as I can for them, and I appeal to you to do the same. Let's all help to rebuild Bengal said Ms Balan. 

Author and Padma Shri Awardee Amitav Ghosh who himself has experienced natural disasters like a tornado in Delhi in 1978 shared his experiences at #AllForBengal telethon. Talking about the increase in cyclonic activities, Mr Ghosh said,

It's kind of extraordinary the increase in the cyclonic activity that we see, certainly in our neighborhood. And that's driven partly by - cyclones draw their energy from heat and the water. And the waters around us, they are heating up very very fast. So that's what's actually providing the extra energy for these cyclones.

Mr Ghosh appreciated the IMD for their predictions of the root of Cyclone Amphan which were absolutely dead-on.

Singer Sonu Nigam also gave a musical motivation to the people of West Bengal and sang a popular song 'Bhagwaan Hai Kaha Re Tu'. He said that if God wishes, things will get better. The musical message was followed by another peppy motivation by Pop, Film and Jazz Singer Usha Uthup who asked to sing 'Kolkata, Kolkata, don't worry Kolkata' and 'Bengal, we believe in you'.

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Ms Uthup talked about the devastations caused by Cyclone Amphan and said,

Let us all stand by in unity and solidarity and see nothing goes wrong with Bengal anymore.

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Kushalta Ke Kadam, an initiative by NDTV and USHA, aims at empowering women from rural India and encourages them to become entrepreneurs by taking up sewing and training others in their respective communities. Since 2011 Usha Silai Campaign has trained more than 3.95 lakh rural women within five years, with 17,000 Silai schools, spanning over 9272 Indian villages in India.

 

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Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching
Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Rebari girls grow up learning traditional embroidery, which along with their new found sewing skills developed at Usha Silai Schools, is helping them earn a living.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Usha Silai School has empowered many rural women to support their family and send their children to school.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

The Usha Silai School, established in a small nondescript village that goes by the name of Kottai, is helping empower people from varied communities.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

The all-inclusive Usha Silai School Programme covers the entire nation from hamlets tucked between hills to villages cast by the sea.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Vegetables farmers from the Mizoram hills earn very little given the topography of the area. Usha Silai Schools have played an important part in this region by skilling women to financially contribute towards their households.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Usha Silai School learner Lucy has trained seven other women in her community, helping them to become financially independent.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Women like Kaviben from the nomadic Rebari community are finally laying down their roots as they begin to gain financial independence and thereby stability through Usha Silai School.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Usha Silai School, located in the Gujarat's Bhuj village, is enabling rural women to earn as much as Rs. 2,500-4,000 each month.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Usha Silai School, in association with a Gujarat based NGO called Kala Raksha, is trying to bring about a Silai revolution in Bhuj.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Besides training other women from their community, many Usha Silai School learners have become entrepreneurs in their own right.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

With sewing becoming easily accessible and lucrative, the silai schools are also helping revive traditional motifs and designs.

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