Mayor of Kolkata and West Bengal’s Minister of Urban Development and Municipal Affairs, Firhad Hakim drew major backlash for slighting the efforts of the Bharatiya Army in its relief work in the cyclone Amphan ravaged state. The eminent member of the Trinamool Congress Party also hurt Hindu sentiments by evoking the Ramayana to liken the Army’s relief work to a squirrel’s efforts in building the Ram Setu. Offended citizens said the minister has no right to drag the Ramayana into his politics.
After the super cyclone wreaked havoc and left the state in shreds, for days the people had to do without basic necessities like electricity and water. The state government had been notified about the approaching cyclone days in advance and it was expected that they would stand prepared to face the cyclone and assure quick recovery.
— Awanish Sharan (@AwanishSharan) May 20, 2020
However for days, uprooted trees blocked roads, electricity wires were torn with no one to repair and water supply was disrupted as well. It was impossible to connect with the people in affected districts across Bengal, as barring Jio no other telecom service was capable of continuing services.
Frustrated and irate, starving and thirsty Kolkatans took to the streets, albeit amidst a lockdown, to protest. This was the horrific situation in the capital city, Kolkata. Living conditions were worse in rural areas and districts. After struggling for 3 days to restore basic amenities in the state, the Chief Minister requested for Army’s help and the centre immediately sent 5 army columns to assist Kolkata administration in restoring the battered infrastructure.
When questioned why they waited to call the army after 3 days of unprecedented suffering for the civilians, the Urban Development minister made the highly condescending comment about the Bharatiya Army’s efforts that have left people infuriated. Taking the credit for the restoration work, Firhad Hakim said that the state government has done everything to bring back normalcy in the state, adding that the contribution of the Bharatiya Army in this would be like the contribution of the squirrel during the construction of Ram Setu as described in Ramayana.
Perhaps, Hakim is oblivious to the fact that the squirrel, through small and puny, had played the paramount role in putting the Ram Setu together. The squirrel made her “gilhari pyaras” and brought in tiny pebbles and grains of sand from the shore to the sea, that held the giant structure together by binding huge boulders brought by the monkeys. (You may read the full story here if you are unaware of the epic)
Netizens took to social media to criticize the mayor heavily for, firstly, not caring for the residents of Kolkata, and then for belittling the Army after they smoothed things out for the state administrative teams.
Taking cognizance of the irate civilians, and in a desperate attempt at damage control, Firhad Hakim took to twitter to issue a letter expressing his gratitude toward the army.
Salute to the #IndianArmy. They not only safeguard our borders but also step up every time there is a disaster in any corner of our country.
My respect to them for their timely aid in overcoming the crisis caused by the Amphan Cyclone in Kolkata even during the #Covid_19 pandemic pic.twitter.com/tIDuTmnCOU
— FIRHAD HAKIM (@FirhadHakim) May 28, 2020
This is not the first time the minister was panned by the people of his city. Back in 2016, Hakim had triggered a huge controversy by describing Garden Reach, a Muslim-majority area in Kolkata, as mini Pakistan to a Pakistani journalist, Maleeha Hamid Siddiqui. “Please come along and let us take you to mini-Pakistan in Kolkata,” said the TMC supremo’s close aide.
Taking political potshots by abusing revered Hindu figures and epics seems to be a regular ploy of TMC’s Muslim politicians. In 2016, TMC MLA Abdur Rezzak Mollah, who was earlier with the CPM, made a crude derogatory remark on BJP leader and one-time actress Roopa Ganguly’s personal life, “I know the length of the cigarettes she (Roopa) smokes or with whom she lives with.” He went on to add, “She really is Draupadi”.
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